2004 Toxicol Pathol. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):212-21.
Drug Discovery Program, Department of Reproductive Biology, Parker-Hughes Institute, 2657 Patton Road, St. Paul, Minnesota 55113, USA. [email protected]

Mucosal toxicity studies of a gel formulation of native pokeweed antiviral protein.

Pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP), a 29-kDa plant-derived protein isolated from Phytolacca americana, is a promising nonspermicidal broad-spectrum antiviral microbicide. This study evaluated the mucosal toxicity potential of native PAP in the in vivo rabbit vaginal irritation model as well as the in vitro reconstituted human vaginal epithelial tissue model. Twenty-two New Zealand white rabbits in 4 subgroups were exposed intravaginally to a gel with and without 0.01, 0.1, or 1.0% native PAP for 10 consecutive days. The dose of PAP used represented nearly 200- to 20,000 times its in vitro anti-HIV IC50 value. Animals were euthanized on day 11 and vaginal tissues were evaluated for histologic and immunohistochemical evidence of mucosal toxicity, cellular inflammation, and hyperplasia. Blood was analyzed for changes in hematology and clinical chemistry profiles. Reconstituted human vaginal epithelial tissue grown on membrane filters was exposed to 0.01, 0.1, or 1.0% native PAP in medium or topically via a gel for 24 hours and tissue damage was evaluated by histological assessment. In the in vivo rabbit vaginal irritation model, half of all PAP-treated rabbits (8/16) exhibited an acceptable range of vaginal mucosal irritation (total score <8 out of a possible 16), whereas nearly a third of PAP-treated rabbits (5/16) developed moderate to marked vaginal mucosal irritation (total score >11). However, no treatment-related adverse effects were seen in hematological or clinical chemistry measurements. Furthermore, in vitro exposure of a 3-dimensional human vaginal tissue grown on polycarbonate membrane filters to identical concentrations of PAP either added to culture medium or applied topically via gel formulation did not result in direct toxicity as determined by histologic evaluation. These findings indicate careful monitoring of vaginal irritation will be required in the clinical development of PAP as a nonspermicidal microbicide.