Improved Immunogenicity of HIV-1 Epitopes in HBsAg Chimeric DNA Vaccine Plasmids by Structural Mutations of HBsAg

Bryder, Karin; Sbai, Hakima; Nielsen, Henrik V.; Corbet, Sylvie; Nielsen, Claus; Whalen, Robert G.; Fomsgaard, Anders
March 1999
DNA & Cell Biology;Mar1999, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p219
Academic Journal
To improve the immunogenicity of epitopes from the envelope protein of HIV-1, we have developed gene gun-delivered subunit DNA vaccines by inserting the sequences encoding the V3 region into the hepatitis B virus (HBV) envelope gene, often called the surface antigen (HBsAg). We have examined the possibility of modifying the immune response to V3 by introducing modifications into the carrier HBsAg in gene gun DNA immunization of mice. In some plasmid constructions, the V3 sequence was introduced into the preS2 region of the HBsAg. Although this region is not present in all protein subunits of the HBsAg particles produced, abolishing the internal translational initiation site for the S protein had no effect on the immune response to V3. Expression of V3 at the N-terminal or C-terminal part of the HBsAg protein resulted in equal anti-V3 antibody and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses. However, elimination of secretion by single amino-acid mutations in the HBsAg decreased the anti-HBsAg antibody response but enhanced the anti-V3 antibody response. In contrast, the CTL response to V3 was independent of the structural mutations but could be improved by a total deletion of the HBsAg sequence part. Thus, the immune response to heterologous epitopes can be altered by modifications in the carrier HBsAg protein. Modifications of the HBsAg carrier might interfere with the dominant immune response to the HBsAg epitopes, allowing better antibody induction to less immunogenic foreign epitopes. However, for induction of CTL responses, the expression of minimal epitopes may be advantageous.


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