American Chemical Society
am2c01028_si_001.pdf (1.49 MB)

Flagellin/Virus-like Particle Hybrid Platform with High Immunogenicity, Safety, and Versatility for Vaccine Development

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-04-25, 19:03 authored by Yiwen Zhao, Zhuofan Li, Jewel Voyer, Yibo Li, Xinyuan Chen
Hepatitis B core (HBc) virus-like particles (VLPs) and flagellin are highly immunogenic and widely explored vaccine delivery platforms. Yet, HBc VLPs mainly allow the insertion of relatively short antigenic epitopes into the immunodominant c/e1 loop without affecting VLP assembly, and flagellin-based vaccines carry the risk of inducing systemic adverse reactions. This study explored a hybrid flagellin/HBc VLP (FH VLP) platform to present heterologous antigens by replacing the surface-exposed D3 domain of flagellin. FH VLPs were prepared by the insertion of flagellin gene into the c/e1 loop of HBc, followed by E. coli expression, purification, and self-assembly into VLPs. Using the ectodomain of influenza matrix protein 2 (M2e) and ovalbumin (OVA) as models, we found that the D3 domain of flagellin could be replaced with four tandem copies of M2e or the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitope of OVA without interfering with the FH VLP assembly, while the insertion of four tandem copies of M2e into the c/e1 loop of HBc disrupted the VLP assembly. FH VLP-based M2e vaccine elicited potent anti-M2e antibody responses and conferred significant protection against multiple influenza A viral strains, while FljB- or HBc-based M2e vaccine failed to elicit significant protection. FH VLP-based OVA peptide vaccine elicited more potent CTL responses and protection against OVA-expressing lymphoma or melanoma challenges than FljB- or HBc-based OVA peptide vaccine. FH VLP-based vaccines showed a good systemic safety, while flagellin-based vaccines significantly increased serum interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor α levels and also rectal temperature at increased doses. We further found that the incorporation of a clinical CpG 1018 adjuvant could enhance the efficacy of FH VLP-based vaccines. Our data support FH VLPs to be a highly immunogenic, safe, and versatile platform for vaccine development to elicit potent humoral and cellular immune responses.