Evaluation of the hepatitis B virus particle as a malaria vaccine carrier

UoM administered thesis: Unknown

  • Authors:
  • Tomas Adomavicius

Abstract

Malaria is a major health problem and an effective vaccine is essential for the eradication of the disease. Despite extensive efforts, a malaria vaccine remains elusive due to the parasite's complex life cycle, diverse morphology, and immune system evasion mechanisms. Antibodies against C terminal domain of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1-19), a highly conserved protein and the main vaccine candidate for blood-stage malaria, can inhibit erythrocyte invasion by the parasite and alleviate the disease symptoms. However, MSP1-19 is poorly immunogenic and classic protein-in-adjuvant MSP1-19-based vaccine formulations failed to induce strong immune responses due to low immunogenicity and generation of ineffective antibodies.The aim of this study was to use hepatitis B virus core (HBc) particles to increase the immunogenicity of MSP1-19. HBc forms particles with protruding spikes and induces a strong and specific immune response against foreign epitopes inserted at the tips of the spikes. In addition, positioning of MSP1-19 on the particle can influence the accessibility of certain antibody binding sites, possibly altering elicited antibody fine specificity and vaccine efficiency. MSP1-19 domain was inserted into the middle of the HBc sequence so that it is displayed at the tips of the HBc particle.Two HBc-MSP1-19 constructs, having different insert flanking linkers, displayed soluble particle formation after bacterial expression and lysis optimization. The particles were purified and the suitability of these two constructs as malaria vaccine candidates was assessed. Firstly, binding of the conformational anti-MSP1-19 antibodies indicated that MSP1-19 domain in the chimeric proteins has the correct disulphide bond pattern which is crucial for the protective properties of an MSP1-19-based vaccine. Furthermore, electron microscopy imaging and determination of initial 3D structures confirmed that both HBc MSP1-19 constructs form particles resembling the wild-type HBc particles, meaning the insertion of MSP1-19 did not heavily distort the overall HBc particle structure. In addition, it was shown that MSP1-19 domains are displayed at the tips of the particle spikes. Particle formation and foreign epitope display are important for the epitope's immunogenicity improvement. The immunogenicity of the chimeric particles was then assessed in mice. Both constructs elicited similar high antibody titres without the use of additional adjuvants, but no difference was observed between the particulate constructs and a non-particulate control (an MSP1-19-based protein). Interestingly, although both HBc-MSP1-19 and non-particulate MSP1-19-elicited antibodies recognized native malarial parasite, only the particulate construct antibodies demonstrated a moderate parasite growth inhibition while the antibodies from the control group did not show parasite inhibition above the background levels.In conclusion, it was shown that MSP1-19 can be expressed in bacteria as a soluble correctly folded protein fused to HBc. More importantly, the fusion protein is capable of forming immunogenic particles which generate antibodies that recognize native MSP1 and inhibit parasite growth more effectively than the protein without the HBc. Therefore, this work lays grounds and supports further chimeric HBc-MSP1-19 research and development.

Details

Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Aug 2015