Hepatitis E virus truncated capsid protein as a potential carrier of exogenous antigens for the development of chimeric virus-like particle vaccines
Background: Virus like particle (VLP), a multiprotein structure which is assembled automatically, can stimulate robust immune responses due to an appropriate size, repetitive epitopes, and a structure similar to native virions. Utilizing VLPs as vaccine carriers to present exogenous antigens is a promising and challenging field in vaccine design. Hence, this study aims to investigate the potential of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) truncated capsid protein as a VLP carrier presenting foreign antigens
... foreign antigens in vaccine design.Results: S and M domains of HEV ORF2 protein (aa112-455) were selected as an optimal carrier (CaSM). The exogenous antigen Seq8 containing three immunogenic domains from three different foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) strains was linked to the C-terminal of CaSM to construct a chimeric VLP vaccine candidate (CaSM-Seq8). Morphological analysis showed that CaSM-Seq8 self-assembled into VLPs with a diameter of approximately 26 nm, similar to the VLPs of CaSM alone but smaller than native HEV virions. Further, the thermal stability and the proteolysis resistance of Seq8 were enhanced when carried by CaSM. The antigenicity analysis revealed a more robust reactivity against anti-FMDV specific antibodies when Seq8 was presented on the CaSM particles. Upon injection into mice, anti-FMDV IgGs induced by CaSM-Seq8 appeared earlier, increased faster, and maintained higher levels for a longer time than those induced by Seq8 antigen alone or a commercial inactivated FMDV vaccine.Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential of the HEV truncated capsid protein VLPs as a presenting-platform of exogenous antigens in vaccine design and promising preliminary results on chimeric VLP vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease.