The ever-present threat of infectious disease, e.g. influenza pandemics, and the increasing need for new and effective treatments in immunotherapy are the driving forces that motivate research into new and innovative vaccine platforms. Ideally, such platforms should trigger an efficient CTL response, be safe, and easy to manufacture. We recently developed a novel nanoparticle adjuvant comprised of papaya mosaic virus (PapMV) coat protein (CP) assembled around an RNA. The PapMV nanoparticle is an efficient vaccine platform in which the peptide antigen is fused to the C-terminus of the PapMV CP, leading to nanoparticles presenting surface-exposed epitope. The fusion stabilizes the epitope and improves its immunogenicity. We found recently that C-terminal fusions are not always efficient, depending on the nature of the peptide fused to the platform.
The USA 2004 influenza virus outbreak H3N8 in dogs heralded the emergence of a new disease in this species. A new inactivated H3N8 vaccine was developed to control the spread of the disease but, as in humans and swine, it is anticipated that the virus will mutate shift and drift in the dog population. Therefore, there is a need for a vaccine that can trigger a broad protection to prevent the spread of the virus and the emergence of new strains.
The principal caveat of existing influenza vaccine is their failure to provide long-term protection. This lack of efficiency is caused by persistent (drift) and dramatic (shift) antigenic changes on the major surface proteins, the main target of protective immunity generated by traditional vaccines. Alternatively, vaccination with most conserved protein, like the nucleoprotein (NP) can stimulate immunity against multiple serotypes and could potentially provides an extended protection. The NP antigen contains more than 90% protein sequence homology among influenza A isolates and it also contains dominant CTL targets epitopes that made this antigen an attractive target for developing universal vaccine. However, NP protein is a weak antigen and need the use of adjuvant to increase its immunogenicity. We have developed an innovative high avidity VLP (HAV) nanoparticle to improve its adjuvant property to the NP antigen. The nanoparticles are derived from papaya mosaic virus capsid protein (PapMV CP) produced in a bacteria expression system. We generated the HAV by adding an affinity peptide directed to the NP protein at the surface of the VLPs. The fusions of the affinity peptide to PapMV VLPs increased the avidity of PapMV VLPs to NP protein. This modification enhanced the humoral and the IFN-? response directed to NP. Moreover, the immunity generated by the HAV adjuvanted NP vaccine improved the protection of vaccinated mice to a challenge with influenza virus. The protection was characterized by accelerated virus elimination after the onset of infection and rapid recovery of the vaccinated animals.
Papaya mosaic virus has been shown to be an efficient adjuvant and vaccine platform in the design and improvement of innovative flu vaccines. So far, all fusions based on the PapMV platform have been located at the C-terminus of the PapMV coat protein. Considering that some epitopes might interfere with the self-assembly of PapMV CP when fused at the C-terminus, we evaluated other possible sites of fusion using the influenza HA11 peptide antigen. Two out of the six new fusion sites tested led to the production of recombinant proteins capable of self assembly into PapMV nanoparticles; the two functional sites are located after amino acids 12 and 187. Immunoprecipitation of each of the successful fusions demonstrated that the HA11 epitope was located at the surface of the nanoparticles. The stability and immunogenicity of the PapMV-HA11 nanoparticles were evaluated, and we could show that there is a direct correlation between the stability of the nanoparticles at 37°C (mammalian body temperature) and the ability of the nanoparticles to trigger an efficient immune response directed towards the HA11 epitope. This strong correlation between nanoparticle stability and immunogenicity in animals suggests that the stability of any nanoparticle harbouring the fusion of a new peptide should be an important criterion in the design of a new vaccine.
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