A molecular assembly system that renders antigens of choice highly repetitive for induction of protective B cell responses.
Jegerlehner A., Tissot A., Lechner F., Sebbel P., Erdmann I., Kündig T., Bächi T., Storni T., Jennings G., Pumpens P., Renner WA., Bachmann MF.
Virus like particles (VLPs) are known to induce potent B cell responses in the absence of adjuvants. Moreover, epitope-specific antibody responses may be induced by VLPs that contain peptides inserted in their immunodominant regions. However, due to steric problems, the size of the peptides capable of being incorporated into VLPs while still permitting capsid assembly, is rather limited. While peptides genetically fused to either the N- or C-terminus of VLPs present fewer assembly problems, the immune responses obtained against such epitopes are often limited, most likely because the epitopes are not optimally exposed. In addition, such particles may be less stable in vivo. Here, we show that peptides and proteins engineered to contain a free cys can be chemically coupled to VLPs formed from the hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg) containing a lys in the immuno-dominant region. By using this approach steric hindrance of capsid assembly is abrogated. Peptides or protein coupled to VLPs in an oriented fashion are shown to induce strong and protective B cell responses even against self-epitopes in the absence of adjuvants. This molecular assembly system may be used to induce strong B cell responses against most antigens.