The new findings "reveal a previously unsuspected biological role" for LRP6, a gene earlier found to play important roles in pathways underlying early development and cell proliferation, the researchers said. The discovery also suggests potential new avenues for treating late-stage anthrax disease, they added.
While antibiotics, such as Cipro, can fight the anthrax bacteria when the disease is caught early, such drugs do nothing to dispel the accumulated toxin, the researchers explained. In contrast, drugs that target the host protein LRP6, or other components of the host machinery integral to the toxin's internalization, might offer a novel method to prevent the toxin from infiltrating and killing cells.
"Our discovery of the role of LRP6 in anthrax toxicity and the demonstration that antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of LRP6 can protect cells grown in culture against killing by anthrax toxin suggest that the immunological targeting of LRP6 may prove useful in protecting against the effects of accumulated toxin during the late stages of anthrax disease when antibacterial methods normally are no longer of therapeutic value," the researchers wrote.