Structure-based design of broad flavivirus immunogens

Project: Research project

Project Details


SUMMARY Dengue virus is a mosquito-transmitted flavivirus that causes an estimated 390 million human infections each year. There are four serotypes of Dengue (DENV1-4) that co-circulate in hyperendemic regions. Primary infection by a single DENV serotype results in febrile illness and subsequent durable immunity to that serotype. Secondary infections by heterotypic serotypes can lead to severe shock syndrome and death. Severe Dengue disease is caused in part by cross-reactive antibodies elicited during primary infection that can bind heterologous DENV serotypes but cannot neutralize them. Instead, these non-neutralizing antibodies facilitate entry and infection in Fc? receptor-positive cells, thus causing antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of infection. While a live-attenuated four-component chimeric vaccine was recently deployed in 19 countries and Europe, this vaccine does not protect naïve individuals against symptomatic or severe infection, and may even exacerbate disease in some cases. Furthermore, the global emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV), and the potential for ADE between DENV and ZIKV, raises concerns for vaccine strategies containing most or all epitopes in the E glycoprotein. Nonetheless, the isolation and characterization of protective and, in some cases, broadly-neutralizing antibodies indicates that certain epitopes within the E glycoprotein may have the capacity to elicit broadly protective responses. Here, we utilize innovative protein engineering approaches to develop ?immune-focused? antigens as potential vaccine candidates, in which epitopes that induce non-neutralizing antibodies are masked by engineered mutations or glycosylation. Our hypothesis is that masking of these unfavorable epitopes will skew the immune response toward a stronger neutralizing, protective, and broad response. Aims 1 and 2 focus on critical epitopes in DENV and ZIKV E domain III (EDIII), and Aim 3 explores glycan masking of the ZIKV E prefusion dimer to immune focus on the E-dimer epitope (EDE). EDIII is attractive for subunit vaccine design because it is the target of potently neutralizing and protective antibodies for both DENV and ZIKV. However, immunization with wild-type EDIII protein results in induction of both neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies that engage a variety of epitopes. We have used phage display to mask unproductive epitopes of DENV and ZIKV EDIIIs by mutation, while maintaining neutralizing epitopes. These ?resurfaced EDIIIs? (rsDIIIs) will be conjugated to protein nanoparticles and their capacity to induce neutralizing and protective antibody response in mice evaluated. To immune focus the prefusion E dimer on the EDE, we have developed a mammalian display system that allows for rapid evaluation of E dimer constructs for binding to EDE mAbs. We will utilize this system to screen variants with multiple engineered glycosylation sites that mask the surface outside of the EDE. The most promising candidates will be tested for their capacity to induce EDE-like mAbs in mice. This work will provide a proof-of-concept for novel subunit vaccine candidates against DENV, ZIKV, and possibly other flaviviruses of global concern.
Effective start/end date9/24/218/31/22


  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $755,795.00


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