• cytokines;
  • bone marrow;
  • anthrax proteins;
  • haematopoiesis


Anthrax receptor (ATR) shares similarities with molecules relevant to haematopoiesis. This suggests that anthrax proteins might bind to these mimicking molecules and exert non-specific haematopoietic effects. The haematopoietic system is the site of immune cell development in the adult. As such, ATR ligand, protective antigen (PA) and the other anthrax proteins, lethal factor, edema factor, could be significant to haematopoietic responses against Bacillus anthracis infection. Because haematopoiesis is the process of immune cell development, effects by anthrax proteins could be relevant to vaccine development. Here, we report on effects of anthrax proteins and toxins on early and late haematopoiesis. Flow cytometry shows binding of PA to haematopoietic cells. This binding might be partly specific because flow cytometry and Western blots demonstrate the presence of ATR1 on haematopoietic cell subsets and the supporting stromal cells. Functional studies with long-term initiating cell and clonogenic assays determined haematopoietic suppression by anthrax toxins and stimulation by monomeric proteins. The suppressive effects were not attributed to cell death, but partly through the induction of haematopoietic suppressors, interleukin (IL)-10 and CCL3 (MIP-1α). In summary, anthrax proteins affect immune cell development by effects on haematopoiesis. The type of effect, stimulation or suppression, depend on whether the stimulator is a toxin or monomeric protein. The studies show effects of anthrax proteins beginning at the early stage of haematopoiesis, and also show secondary mediators such as IL-10 and CCL3. The roles of other cytokines and additional ATR are yet to be investigated.