Hemagglutinin stalk-based universal vaccine constructs protect against group 2 influenza A viruses.
ABSTRACT: Current influenza virus vaccines contain H1N1 (phylogenetic group 1 hemagglutinin), H3N2 (phylogenetic group 2 hemagglutinin), and influenza B virus components. These vaccines induce good protection against closely matched strains by predominantly eliciting antibodies against the membrane distal globular head domain of their respective viral hemagglutinins. This domain, however, undergoes rapid antigenic drift, allowing the virus to escape neutralizing antibody responses. The membrane proximal stalk domain of the hemagglutinin is much more conserved compared to the head domain. In recent years, a growing collection of antibodies that neutralize a broad range of influenza virus strains and subtypes by binding to this domain has been isolated. Here, we demonstrate that a vaccination strategy based on the stalk domain of the H3 hemagglutinin (group 2) induces in mice broadly neutralizing anti-stalk antibodies that are highly cross-reactive to heterologous H3, H10, H14, H15, and H7 (derived from the novel Chinese H7N9 virus) hemagglutinins. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these antibodies confer broad protection against influenza viruses expressing various group 2 hemagglutinins, including an H7 subtype. Through passive transfer experiments, we show that the protection is mediated mainly by neutralizing antibodies against the stalk domain. Our data suggest that, in mice, a vaccine strategy based on the hemagglutinin stalk domain can protect against viruses expressing divergent group 2 hemagglutinins.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The outbreak of novel avian H7N9 influenza virus infections in China in 2013 has demonstrated the continuing threat posed by zoonotic pathogens. Deciphering the immune response during natural infection will guide future vaccine development.<h4>Methods</h4>We assessed the induction of heterosubtypic cross-reactive antibodies induced by H7N9 infection against a large panel of recombinant hemagglutinins and neuraminidases by quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and novel chimeric hemagglutinin constructs were used to dissect the anti-stalk or -head humoral immune response.<h4>Results</h4>H7N9 infection induced strong antibody responses against divergent H7 hemagglutinins. Interestingly, we also found induction of antibodies against heterosubtypic hemagglutinins from both group 1 and group 2 and a boost in heterosubtypic neutralizing activity in the absence of hemagglutination inhibitory activity. Kinetic monitoring revealed that heterosubtypic binding/neutralizing antibody responses typically appeared and peaked earlier than intrasubtypic responses, likely mediated by memory recall responses.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our results indicate that cross-group binding and neutralizing antibody responses primarily targeting the stalk region can be elicited after natural influenza virus infection. These data support our understanding of the breadth of the postinfection immune response that could inform the design of future, broadly protective influenza virus vaccines.
Project description:Recently, a new class of broadly neutralizing anti-influenza virus antibodies that target the stalk domain of the viral hemagglutinin was discovered. As such, induction, isolation, characterization, and quantification of these novel antibodies has become an area of intense research and great interest. Since most of these antibodies bind to conformational epitopes, the structural integrity of hemagglutinin substrates for the detection and quantification of these antibodies is of high importance. Here we evaluate the binding of these antibodies to soluble, secreted hemagglutinins with or without a carboxy-terminal trimerization domain based on the natural trimerization domain of T4 phage fibritin. The lack of such a domain completely abolishes binding to group 1 hemagglutinins and also affects binding to group 2 hemagglutinins. Additionally, the presence of a trimerization domain positively influences soluble hemagglutinin stability during expression and purification. Our findings suggest that a carboxy-terminal trimerization domain is a necessary requirement for the structural integrity of stalk epitopes on recombinant soluble influenza virus hemagglutinin.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Influenza remains a major global health burden. Seasonal vaccines offer protection but can be rendered less effective when the virus undergoes extensive antigenic drift. Antibodies that target the highly conserved hemagglutinin stalk can protect against drifted viruses, and vaccine constructs designed to induce such antibodies form the basis for a universal influenza virus vaccine approach. In this study, we analyzed baseline and postvaccination serum samples of children (6 to 59 months), adults (18 to 49 years), and elderly individuals (?65 years) who participated in clinical trials with a recombinant hemagglutinin-based vaccine. We found that baseline IgG and IgA antibodies against the H1 stalk domain correlated with the ages of patients. Children generally had very low baseline titers and did not respond well to the vaccine in terms of making stalk-specific antibodies. Adults showed the highest induction of stalk-specific antibodies, but the elderly had the highest absolute antibody titers against the stalk. Importantly, the stalk antibodies measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) showed neutralizing activity in neutralization assays and protected mice in a passive-transfer model in a stalk titer-dependent manner. Finally, we found similar patterns of stalk-specific antibodies directed against the H3 and influenza B virus hemagglutinins, albeit at lower levels than those measured against the H1 stalk. The relatively high levels of stalk-specific antibodies in the elderly patients may explain the previously reported low influenza virus infection rates in this age group. (This study has been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov under registration no. NCT00336453, NCT00539981, and NCT00395174.) IMPORTANCE:The present study provides evidence that titers of broadly neutralizing hemagglutinin stalk-reactive antibodies increase with age, possibly due to repeated exposure to divergent influenza viruses. These relatively high levels of antistalk titers may be responsible for lower circulation rates of influenza viruses in older individuals. Our findings suggest that the level of antistalk antibodies is a good surrogate marker for protection against influenza virus infection. In addition, the levels of antistalk antibodies might determine the breadth of protection against different drifted strains.
Project description:Current seasonal influenza virus vaccines only provide limited, short-lived protection, and antigenic drift in the hemagglutinin surface glycoprotein necessitates their annual re-formulation and re-administration. To overcome these limitations, universal vaccine strategies that aim at eliciting broadly protective antibodies to conserved epitopes of the hemagglutinin show promise for protecting against diverse and drifted influenza viruses. Here a vaccination strategy that focuses antibody responses to conserved epitopes of the H3 hemagglutinin is described. The approach is based on antigenic silencing of the immunodominant major antigenic sites of an H3 protein from 2014 by replacing them with corresponding sequences of exotic avian hemagglutinins, yielding "mosaic" hemagglutinins. In mice, vaccination with inactivated viruses expressing mosaic hemagglutinins induced highly cross-reactive antibodies against the H3 stalk domain that elicited Fc-mediated effector functions in vitro. In addition, the mosaic viruses elicited head-specific antibodies with neutralizing and hemagglutination-inhibiting activity against recent H3N2 viruses in vitro. Immune sera protected mice from heterologous challenge with viruses carrying H3 proteins from 1968 and 1982, whereas immune sera generated with a seasonal vaccine did not protect. Consequently, the mosaic vaccination approach provides a promising avenue toward a universal influenza virus vaccine.
Project description:Emerging H7N9 influenza virus infections in Asia have once more spurred the development of effective prepandemic H7 vaccines. However, many vaccines based on avian influenza viruses--including H7--are poorly immunogenic, as measured by traditional correlates of protection. Here we reevaluated sera from an H7N1 human vaccine trial performed in 2006. We examined cross-reactive antibody responses to divergent H7 strains, including H7N9, dissected the antibody response into head- and stalk-reactive antibodies, and tested the in vivo potency of these human sera in a passive-transfer H7N9 challenge experiment with mice. Although only a low percentage of vaccinees induced neutralizing antibody responses against the homologous vaccine strain and also H7N9, we detected strong cross-reactivity to divergent H7 hemagglutinins (HAs) in a large proportion of the cohort with a quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Furthermore, H7N1 vaccination induced antibodies to both the head and stalk domains of the HA, which is in sharp contrast to seasonal inactivated vaccines. Finally, we were able to show that both neutralizing and nonneutralizing antibodies improved in vivo virus clearance in a passive-transfer H7N9 challenge mouse model.
Project description:The influenza virus hemagglutinin molecule possesses a globular head domain that mediates receptor binding and a stalk domain at the membrane-proximal region. We generated functional influenza viruses expressing chimeric hemagglutinins encompassing a variety of globular head and stalk combinations, not only from different hemagglutinin subtypes but also from different hemagglutinin phylogenetic groups. These chimeric recombinant viruses possess growth properties similar to those of wild-type influenza viruses and can be used as reagents to measure domain-specific antibodies in virological and immunological assays.
Project description:The standard method to quantify the hemagglutinin content of influenza virus vaccines is the single radial immunodiffusion assay. This assay primarily relies on polyclonal antibodies against the head domain of the influenza virus hemagglutinin, which is the main target antigen of influenza virus vaccines. Novel influenza virus vaccine candidates that redirect the immune response towards the evolutionary more conserved hemagglutinin stalk, including chimeric hemagglutinin and headless hemagglutinin constructs, are highly dependent on the structural integrity of the protein to present conformational epitopes for neutralizing antibodies. In this study, we describe a novel enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay that allows quantifying the amount of hemagglutinin with correctly folded stalk domains and which could be further developed into a potency assay for stalk-based influenza virus vaccines.
Project description:Recent studies have shown that live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs) expressing avian influenza virus hemagglutinins (HAs) prime for strong protective antibody responses to an inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) containing the HA. To better understand this priming effect, we compared H7 HA head and stalk domain-specific B-cell responses in H7N7 LAIV-primed subjects and non-H7-primed controls after a single dose of H7N7 IIV. As previously reported, H7N7 LAIV-primed subjects but not control subjects generated strong hemagglutination-inhibiting and neutralizing antibody responses to the H7N7 IIV. Here, we found that the quantity, epitope diversity, and affinity of H7 head-specific antibodies increased rapidly in only H7N7 LAIV-primed subjects after receipt of the IIV. However, all cohorts generated a vigorous, high-affinity, stalk-specific antibody response. Consistent increases in circulating memory B-cell frequencies after receipt of the IIV reflected the specificity of high-affinity antibody production. Our findings emphasize the value of LAIVs as a vehicle for prepandemic vaccination.
Project description:Seasonal epidemics caused by antigenic variations in influenza A virus remain a public health concern and an economic burden. The isolation and characterization of broadly neutralizing anti-hemagglutinin monoclonal antibodies (MAb) have highlighted the presence of highly conserved epitopes in divergent influenza A viruses. Here, we describe the generation and characterization of a mouse monoclonal antibody designed to target the conserved regions of the hemagglutinin of influenza A H1 viruses, a subtype that has caused pandemics in the human population in both the 20th and 21st centuries. By sequentially immunizing mice with plasmid DNA encoding the hemagglutinin of antigenically different H1 influenza A viruses (A/South Carolina/1/1918, A/USSR/92/1977, and A/California/4/2009), we isolated and identified MAb 6F12. Similar to other broadly neutralizing MAb previously described, MAb 6F12 has no hemagglutination inhibition activity against influenza A viruses and targets the stalk region of hemagglutinins. As designed, it has neutralizing activity against a divergent panel of H1 viruses in vitro, representing 79 years of antigenic drift. Most notably, MAb 6F12 prevented gross weight loss against divergent H1 viruses in passive transfer experiments in mice, both in pre- and postexposure prophylaxis regimens. The broad but specific activity of MAb 6F12 highlights the potent efficacy of monoclonal antibodies directed against a single subtype of influenza A virus.
Project description:The limited ability of current influenza virus vaccines to protect from antigenically drifted or shifted viruses creates a public health problem that has led to the need to develop effective, broadly protective vaccines. While current influenza virus vaccines mostly induce an immune response against the immunodominant and variable head domain of the hemagglutinin, the major surface glycoprotein of the virus, the hemagglutinin stalk domain has been identified to harbor neutralizing B-cell epitopes that are conserved among and even between influenza A virus subtypes. A complete understanding of the differences in evolution between the main target of current vaccines and this more conserved stalk region are missing. Here, we performed an evolutionary analysis of the stalk domains of the hemagglutinin of pre-pandemic seasonal H1N1, pandemic H1N1, seasonal H3N2, and influenza B viruses and show quantitatively for the first time that the stalk domain is evolving at a rate that is significantly slower than that of the head domain. Additionally, we found that the cross-reactive epitopes in the stalk domain targeted by broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies are evolving at an even slower rate compared to the full head and stalk regions of the protein. Finally, a fixed-effects likelihood selection analysis was performed for these virus groups in both the head and stalk domains. While several positive selection sites were found in the head domain, only a single site in the stalk domain of pre-pandemic seasonal H1 hemagglutinin was identified at amino acid position 468 (H1 numbering from methionine). This site is not located in or close to the epitopes of cross-reactive anti-stalk monoclonal antibodies. Furthermore, we found that changes in this site do not significantly impact virus binding or neutralization by human anti-stalk antibodies, suggesting that some positive selection in the stalk domain is independent of immune pressures. We conclude that, while the stalk domain does evolve over time, this evolution is slow and, historically, is not directed to aid in evading neutralizing antibody responses.