Mahtab Moayeri

Cell Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology



  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bacillus anthracis , the causative agent of anthrax, secretes three polypeptides, which form the bipartite lethal and edema toxins (LT and ET, respectively). The common component in these toxins, protective antigen (PA), is responsible for binding to cellular receptors and translocating the lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF) enzymatic moieties to the cytosol. Antibodies against PA protect against anthrax. We previously isolated toxin-neutralizing variable domains of camelid heavy-chain-only antibodies (VHHs) and demonstrated their in vivo efficacy. In this work, gene therapy with an adenoviral (Ad) vector (Ad/VNA2-PA) (VNA, VHH-based neutralizing agents) promoting the expression of a bispecific VHH-based neutralizing agent (VNA2-PA), consisting of two linked VHHs targeting different PA-neutralizing epitopes, was tested in two inbred mouse strains, BALB/cJ and C57BL/6J, and found to protect mice against anthrax toxin challenge and anthrax spore infection. Two weeks after a single treatment with Ad/VNA2-PA, serum VNA2-PA levels remained above 1 μg/ml, with some as high as 10 mg/ml. The levels were 10- to 100-fold higher and persisted longer in C57BL/6J than in BALB/cJ mice. Mice were challenged with a lethal dose of LT or spores at various times after Ad/VNA2-PA administration. The majority of BALB/cJ mice having serum VNA2-PA levels of >0.1 μg/ml survived LT challenge, and 9 of 10 C57BL/6J mice with serum levels of >1 μg/ml survived spore challenge. Our findings demonstrate the potential for genetic delivery of VNAs as an effective method for providing prophylactic protection from anthrax. We also extend prior findings of mouse strain-based differences in transgene expression and persistence by adenoviral vectors.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Clinical and vaccine Immunology: CVI
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    Allison J. Greaney · Stephen H. Leppla · Mahtab Moayeri
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The inflammasomes are intracellular protein complexes that play an important role in innate immune sensing. Activation of inflammasomes leads to activation of caspase-1 and maturation and secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18. In certain myeloid cells, this activation can also lead to an inflammatory cell death (pyroptosis). Inflammasome sensor proteins have evolved to detect a range of microbial ligands and bacterial exotoxins either through direct interaction or by detection of host cell changes elicited by these effectors. Bacterial exotoxins activate the inflammasomes through diverse processes, including direct sensor cleavage, modulation of ion fluxes through plasma membrane pore formation, and perturbation of various host cell functions. In this review, we summarize the findings on some of the bacterial exotoxins that activate the inflammasomes.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Frontiers in Immunology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is characterized by oxidative stress and lung tissue destruction by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). The interplay between these distinct pathological processes and the implications for TB diagnosis and disease staging are poorly understood. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) levels were previously shown to distinguish active from latent TB, as well as successfully treated Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. MMP-1 expression is also associated with active TB. In this study, we measured plasma levels of these two important biomarkers in distinct TB cohorts from India and Brazil. Patients with active TB expressed either very high levels of HO-1 and low levels of MMP-1 or the converse. Moreover, TB patients with either high HO-1 or MMP-1 levels displayed distinct clinical presentations, as well as plasma inflammatory marker profiles. In contrast, in an exploratory North American study, inversely correlated expression of HO-1 and MMP-1 was not observed in patients with other nontuberculous lung diseases. To assess possible regulatory interactions in the biosynthesis of these two enzymes at the cellular level, we studied the expression of HO-1 and MMP-1 in M. tuberculosis-infected human and murine macrophages. We found that infection of macrophages with live virulent M. tuberculosis is required for robust induction of high levels of HO-1 but not MMP-1. In addition, we observed that CO, a product of M. tuberculosis-induced HO-1 activity, inhibits MMP-1 expression by suppressing c-Jun/AP-1 activation. These findings reveal a mechanistic link between oxidative stress and tissue remodeling that may find applicability in the clinical staging of TB patients. Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · The Journal of Immunology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The inflammasomes are intracellular complexes that have an important role in cytosolic innate immune sensing and pathogen defense. Inflammasome sensors detect a diversity of intracellular microbial ligands and endogenous danger signals and activate caspase-1, thus initiating maturation and release of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β and interleukin-18. These events, although crucial to the innate immune response, have also been linked to the pathology of several inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. The natural isothiocyanate sulforaphane, present in broccoli sprouts and available as a dietary supplement, has gained attention for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemopreventive properties. We discovered that sulforaphane inhibits caspase-1 autoproteolytic activation and interleukin-1β maturation and secretion downstream of the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor leucine-rich repeat proteins NLRP1 and NLRP3, NLR family apoptosis inhibitory protein 5/NLR family caspase-1 recruitment domain-containing protein 4 (NAIP5/NLRC4), and absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) inflammasome receptors. Sulforaphane does not inhibit the inflammasome by direct modification of active caspase-1 and its mechanism is not dependent on protein degradation by the proteasome or de novo protein synthesis. Furthermore, sulforaphane-mediated inhibition of the inflammasomes is independent of the transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-like factor 2 (Nrf2) and the antioxidant response-element pathway, to which many of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of sulforaphane have been attributed. Sulforaphane was also found to inhibit cell recruitment to the peritoneum and interleukin-1β secretion in an in vivo peritonitis model of acute gout and to reverse NLRP1-mediated murine resistance to Bacillus anthracis spore infection. These findings demonstrate that sulforaphane inhibits the inflammasomes through a novel mechanism and contributes to our understanding of the beneficial effects of sulforaphane. © Society for Leukocyte Biology.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of leukocyte biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anthrax is caused by the spore-forming, gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The bacterium's major virulence factors are (a) the anthrax toxins and (b) an antiphagocytic polyglutamic capsule. These are encoded by two large plasmids, the former by pXO1 and the latter by pXO2. The expression of both is controlled by the bicarbonate-responsive transcriptional regulator, AtxA. The anthrax toxins are three polypeptides-protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF), and edema factor (EF)-that come together in binary combinations to form lethal toxin and edema toxin. PA binds to cellular receptors to translocate LF (a protease) and EF (an adenylate cyclase) into cells. The toxins alter cell signaling pathways in the host to interfere with innate immune responses in early stages of infection and to induce vascular collapse at late stages. This review focuses on the role of anthrax toxins in pathogenesis. Other virulence determinants, as well as vaccines and therapeutics, are briefly discussed. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Microbiology Volume 69 is September 08, 2015. Please see for revised estimates.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Annual review of microbiology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Lethal and edema toxin contribute to shock and lethality with Bacillus anthracis. We showed previously in a 96-h sedated canine model that raxibacumab, a monoclonal antibody against protective antigen, augmented hemodynamic support (HS) and improved survival with lethal toxin challenge. Here we study raxibacumab further. Using this model, we have now studied raxibacumab with 24 h edema toxin challenges (Study 1), and lethal and edema toxin challenges together (Study 2). Methods Using our canine model, we have now studied raxibacumab with 24h edema toxin challenges (Study-1), and lethal and edema toxin challenges together (Study-2). Results In Study 1, compared to no treatment, HS (titrated fluid and norepinephrine) increased mean arterial blood pressure (MAP, p ≤ 0.05) but not survival [0 of 10 (0/10) animals survived in each group] or median survival time [43.8 h (range 16.8 to 80.3) vs. 45.2 h (21.0 to 57.1)]. Compared to HS, HS with raxibacumab treatment at or 6 h after the beginning of edema toxin increased MAP and survival rate (6/7 and 7/8, respectively) and time [96.0 h (39.5 to 96.0) and 96.0 h (89.5 to 96.0), respectively]; (p ≤ 0.05). HS with raxibacumab at 12 h increased MAP (p ≤ 0.05) but not survival [1/5; 55.3 h (12.6 to 96.0)]. In Study-2, survival rate and time increased with HS and raxibacumab at 0 h (4/4) or 6 h after (3/3) beginning lethal and edema toxin compared to HS [0/5; 71.5 h (65 to 93)] (p = 0.01 averaged over raxibacumab groups). Conclusions Raxibacumab augments HS and improves survival during shock with lethal and edema toxin.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015
  • Nolan K Maier · Stephen H Leppla · Mahtab Moayeri
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Inflammasomes are cytosolic protein complexes that respond to diverse danger signals by activating caspase-1. The sensor components of the inflammasome, often proteins of the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor (NLR) family, detect stress, danger stimuli, and pathogen-associated molecular patterns. We report that the eicosanoid 15-deoxy-Δ(12,14)-PGJ2 (15d-PGJ2) and related cyclopentenone PGs inhibit caspase-1 activation by the NLR family leucine-rich repeat protein (NLRP)1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes. This inhibition was independent of the well-characterized role of 15d-PGJ2 as a peroxisome proliferator receptor-γ agonist, its activation of NF erythroid 2-related factor 2, or its anti-inflammatory function as an inhibitor of NF-κB. Instead, 15d-PGJ2 prevents the autoproteolytic activation of caspase-1 and the maturation of IL-1β through induction of a cellular state inhibitory to caspase-1 proteolytic function. The eicosanoid does not directly modify or inactivate the caspase-1 enzyme. Rather, inhibition is dependent on de novo protein synthesis. In a mouse peritonitis model of gout, using monosodium urate crystals to activate NLRP3, 15d-PGJ2 caused a significant inhibition of cell recruitment and associated IL-1β release. Furthermore, in a murine anthrax infection model, 15d-PGJ2 reversed anthrax lethal toxin-mediated NLRP1-dependent resistance. The findings reported in this study suggest a novel mechanism for the anti-inflammatory properties of the cyclopentenone PGs through inhibition of caspase-1 and the inflammasome.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · The Journal of Immunology
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    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Toxicon
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anthrax disease is caused by a toxin consisting of protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF). Antibodies (Abs) against PA have been shown to be protective against the disease. Variable domains of camelid heavy chain-only Abs (VHHs) with affinity for PA were obtained from immunized alpacas and screened for anthrax neutralizing activity in macrophage toxicity assays. Two classes of neutralizing VHHs were identified recognizing distinct, non-overlapping epitopes. One class recognizes domain 4 of PA at a well-characterized neutralizing site through which PA binds to its cellular receptor. A second neutralizing VHH (JKH-C7) recognizes a novel epitope. This antibody inhibits conversion of the PA oligomer from 'pre-pore' to its SDS and heat-resistant 'pore' conformation while not preventing cleavage of full length 83-kDa PA (PA83) by cell surface proteases to its oligomer-competent 63-kDa form (PA63). The antibody prevents endocytosis of the cell surface generated PA63 subunit but not pre-formed PA63 oligomers formed in solution. JKH-C7 and the receptor-blocking VHH class (JIK-B8) were expressed as a heterodimeric VHH-based neutralizing agent (VNA2-PA). This VNA displayed improved neutralizing potency in cell assays and protected mice from anthrax toxin challenge with much better efficacy than the separate component VHHs. The VNA protected virtually all mice when separately administered at a 1:1 ratio to toxin, and protected mice against Bacillus anthracis spore infection. Thus, our studies show the potential of VNAs as anthrax therapeutics. Due to their simple and stable nature, VNAs should be amenable to genetic delivery or administration via respiratory routes. Copyright © 2015, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    Full-text · Chapter · Jan 2015
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Unlabelled: Induction of immunity that limits Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice is critically dependent on the activation of the innate immune response. In this study, we investigated the role of cytoplasmic nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing a pyrin domain (NLRP) inflammasome sensors during acute toxoplasmosis in mice. We show that in vitro Toxoplasma infection of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, resulting in the rapid production and cleavage of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), with no measurable cleavage of IL-18 and no pyroptosis. Paradoxically, Toxoplasma-infected mice produced large quantities of IL-18 but had no measurable IL-1β in their serum. Infection of mice deficient in NLRP3, caspase-1/11, IL-1R, or the inflammasome adaptor protein ASC led to decreased levels of circulating IL-18, increased parasite replication, and death. Interestingly, mice deficient in NLRP1 also displayed increased parasite loads and acute mortality. Using mice deficient in IL-18 and IL-18R, we show that this cytokine plays an important role in limiting parasite replication to promote murine survival. Our findings reveal T. gondii as a novel activator of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes in vivo and establish a role for these sensors in host resistance to toxoplasmosis. Importance: Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that are a major component of the innate immune system. They contain "sensor" proteins that are responsible for detecting various microbial and environmental danger signals and function by activating caspase-1, an enzyme that mediates cleavage and release of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-18. Toxoplasma gondii is a highly successful protozoan parasite capable of infecting a wide range of host species that have variable levels of resistance. We report here that T. gondii is a novel activator of the NLRP1 and NLRP3 inflammasomes in vivo and establish a role for these sensors in host resistance to toxoplasmosis. Using mice deficient in IL-18 and IL-18R, we show that the IL-18 cytokine plays a pivotal role by limiting parasite replication to promote murine survival.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · mBio
  • Shihui Liu · Mahtab Moayeri · Stephen H Leppla
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pathophysiological effects resulting from many bacterial diseases are caused by exotoxins released by the bacteria. Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacterium, is such a pathogen, causing anthrax through a combination of bacterial infection and toxemia. B. anthracis causes natural infection in humans and animals and has been a top bioterrorism concern since the 2001 anthrax attacks in the USA. The exotoxins secreted by B. anthracis use capillary morphogenesis protein 2 (CMG2) as the major toxin receptor and play essential roles in pathogenesis during the entire course of the disease. This review focuses on the activities of anthrax toxins and their roles in initial and late stages of anthrax infection.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Trends in Microbiology
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    Preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Cell metabolism
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite that infects a wide range of warm-blooded species. Rats vary in their susceptibility to this parasite. The Toxo1 locus conferring Toxoplasma resistance in rats was previously mapped to a region of chromosome 10 containing Nlrp1. This gene encodes an inflammasome sensor controlling macrophage sensitivity to anthrax lethal toxin (LT) induced rapid cell death (pyroptosis). We show here that rat strain differences in Toxoplasma infected macrophage sensitivity to pyroptosis, IL-1β/IL-18 processing, and inhibition of parasite proliferation are perfectly correlated with NLRP1 sequence, while inversely correlated with sensitivity to anthrax LT-induced cell death. Using recombinant inbred rats, SNP analyses and whole transcriptome gene expression studies, we narrowed the candidate genes for control of Toxoplasma-mediated rat macrophage pyroptosis to four genes, one of which was Nlrp1. Knockdown of Nlrp1 in pyroptosis-sensitive macrophages resulted in higher parasite replication and protection from cell death. Reciprocally, overexpression of the NLRP1 variant from Toxoplasma-sensitive macrophages in pyroptosis-resistant cells led to sensitization of these resistant macrophages. Our findings reveal Toxoplasma as a novel activator of the NLRP1 inflammasome in rat macrophages.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · PLoS Pathogens
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Inflammasomes are large cytoplasmic multiprotein complexes that activate caspase-1 in response to diverse intracellular danger signals. Inflammasome components termed nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptor (NLR) proteins act as sensors for pathogen-associated molecular patterns, stress, or danger stimuli. We discovered that arsenicals, including arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite, inhibited activation of the NLRP1, NLRP3, and NAIP5/NLRC4 inflammasomes by their respective activating signals, anthrax lethal toxin, nigericin, and flagellin. These compounds prevented the autoproteolytic activation of caspase-1 and the processing and secretion of IL-1β from macrophages. Inhibition was independent of protein synthesis induction, proteasome-mediated protein breakdown, or kinase signaling pathways. Arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite did not directly modify or inhibit the activity of preactivated recombinant caspase-1. Rather, they induced a cellular state inhibitory to both the autoproteolytic and substrate cleavage activities of caspase-1, which was reversed by the reactive oxygen species scavenger N-acetylcysteine but not by reducing agents or NO pathway inhibitors. Arsenicals provided protection against NLRP1-dependent anthrax lethal toxin-mediated cell death and prevented NLRP3-dependent neutrophil recruitment in a monosodium urate crystal inflammatory murine peritonitis model. These findings suggest a novel role in inhibition of the innate immune response for arsenical compounds that have been used as therapeutics for a few hundred years.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2013 · The Journal of Immunology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anthrax lethal toxin is a classical AB toxin comprised of two components: protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF). Here, we show that following assembly and endocytosis, PA forms a channel that translocates LF, not only into the cytosol, but also into the lumen of endosomal intraluminal vesicles (ILVs). These ILVs can fuse and release LF into the cytosol, where LF can proteolyze and disable host targets. We find that LF can persist in ILVs for days, fully sheltered from proteolytic degradation, both in vitro and in vivo. During this time, ILV-localized LF can be transmitted to daughter cells upon cell division. In addition, LF-containing ILVs can be delivered to the extracellular medium as exosomes. These can deliver LF to the cytosol of naive cells in a manner that is independent of the typical anthrax toxin receptor-mediated trafficking pathway, while being sheltered from neutralizing extracellular factors of the immune system.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Cell Reports
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anthrax edema factor (EF) is a calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase that converts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into 3'-5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), contributing to the establishment of Bacillus anthracis infections and the resulting pathophysiology. We show that EF adenylate cyclase toxin activity is strongly mediated by the N-end rule, and thus is dependent on the identity of the N-terminal amino acid. EF variants having different N-terminal residues varied by more than 100-fold in potency in cultured cells and mice. EF variants having unfavorable, destabilizing N-terminal residues showed much greater activity in cells when the E1 ubiquitin ligase was inactivated or when proteasome inhibitors were present. Taken together, these results show that EF is uniquely affected by ubiquitination and/or proteasomal degradation.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease, is lethal owing to the actions of two exotoxins: anthrax lethal toxin (LT) and oedema toxin (ET). The key tissue targets responsible for the lethal effects of these toxins are unknown. Here we generated cell-type-specific anthrax toxin receptor capillary morphogenesis protein-2 (CMG2)-null mice and cell-type-specific CMG2-expressing mice and challenged them with the toxins. Our results show that lethality induced by LT and ET occurs through damage to distinct cell types; whereas targeting cardiomyocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells is required for LT-induced mortality, ET-induced lethality occurs mainly through its action in hepatocytes. Notably, and in contradiction to what has been previously postulated, targeting of endothelial cells by either toxin does not seem to contribute significantly to lethality. Our findings demonstrate that B. anthracis has evolved to use LT and ET to induce host lethality by coordinately damaging two distinct vital systems.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · Nature
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, manifests its pathogenesis through the action of two secreted toxins. The bipartite lethal and edema toxins, a combination of lethal factor or edema factor with the protein protective antigen, are important virulence factors for this bacterium. We previously developed small molecule inhibitors of lethal factor proteolytic activity (LFIs) and demonstrated their in vivo efficacy in a rat lethal toxin challenge model. In this work we show that these LFIs protect against lethality caused by anthrax infection in mice when combined with sub-protective doses of either antibiotics or neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that target edema factor. Significantly, these inhibitors provided protection against lethal infection when administered as a monotherapy. As little as two doses (10 mg/kg) administered at 2 h and 8 h after spore infection was sufficient to provide a significant survival benefit in infected mice. Administration of LFIs early in the infection was found to inhibit dissemination of vegetative bacteria to the organs in the first 32 h following infection. In addition, neutralizing antibodies against edema factor also inhibited bacterial dissemination with similar efficacy. Together, our findings confirm the important roles that both anthrax toxins play in establishing anthrax infection, and demonstrate the potential for small molecule therapeutics targeting these proteins.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
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    Dataset: Figure S2
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: LT cleaves MEK proteins and inhibits MAPK phosphorylation. Cells were treated with medium alone, LF (100 ng/ml), PA (500 ng/ml), or the combination of PA with increasing concentrations of LF for 6, 24, and 48 hours. Whole cell lysates were analyzed by Western blot for MEK-1, MEK-3, MEK-4, and the phosphorylated and total forms of ERK 1/2, JNK 1/2, and p38. Graphs represent the densitometry analyses of phospho-ERK 1/2, JNK 1/2, and p38 as a function of LF concentration at 48 hours. Phospho-MAPK expression was normalized to tubulin and presented relative to control. Means ± SE for a minimum of three separate experiments are shown. *, p<0.05 versus control. (TIF)
    Preview · Dataset · Apr 2013

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