Structure-Based Design of Head-Only Fusion Glycoprotein Immunogens for Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
ABSTRACT: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a significant cause of severe respiratory illness worldwide, particularly in infants, young children, and the elderly. Although no licensed vaccine is currently available, an engineered version of the metastable RSV fusion (F) surface glycoprotein-stabilized in the pre-fusion (pre-F) conformation by "DS-Cav1" mutations-elicits high titer RSV-neutralizing responses. Moreover, pre-F-specific antibodies, often against the neutralization-sensitive antigenic site Ø in the membrane-distal head region of trimeric F glycoprotein, comprise a substantial portion of the human response to natural RSV infection. To focus the vaccine-elicited response to antigenic site Ø, we designed a series of RSV F immunogens that comprised the membrane-distal head of the F glycoprotein in its pre-F conformation. These "head-only" immunogens formed monomers, dimers, and trimers. Antigenic analysis revealed that a majority of the 70 engineered head-only immunogens displayed reactivity to site Ø-targeting antibodies, which was similar to that of the parent RSV F DS-Cav1 trimers, often with increased thermostability. We evaluated four of these head-only immunogens in detail, probing their recognition by antibodies, their physical stability, structure, and immunogenicity. When tested in naïve mice, a head-only trimer, half the size of the parent RSV F trimer, induced RSV titers, which were statistically comparable to those induced by DS-Cav1. When used to boost DS-Cav1-primed mice, two head-only RSV F immunogens, a dimer and a trimer, boosted RSV-neutralizing titers to levels that were comparable to those boosted by DS-Cav1, although with higher site Ø-directed responses. Our results provide proof-of-concept for the ability of the smaller head-only RSV F immunogens to focus the vaccine-elicited response to antigenic site Ø. Decent primary immunogenicity, enhanced physical stability, potential ease of manufacture, and potent immunogenicity upon boosting suggest these head-only RSV F immunogens, engineered to retain the pre-fusion conformation, may have advantages as candidate RSV vaccines.
Project description:Background:Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subtypes, A and B, co-circulate in annual epidemics and alternate in dominance. We have shown that a subtype A RSV fusion (F) glycoprotein, stabilized in its prefusion conformation by DS-Cav1 mutations, is a promising RSV-vaccine immunogen, capable of boosting RSV-neutralizing titers in healthy adults. In both humans and vaccine-tested animals, neutralizing titers elicited by this subtype A DS-Cav1 immunogen were ~ 2- to 3-fold higher against the homologous subtype A virus than against the heterologous subtype B virus. Methods:To understand the molecular basis for this subtype difference, we introduced DS-Cav1 mutations into RSV strain B18537 F, determined the trimeric crystal structure, and carried out immunogenicity studies. Results:The B18537 DS-Cav1 F structure at 2-Å resolution afforded a precise delineation of prefusion F characteristics, including those of antigenic site Ø, a key trimer-apex site. Structural comparison with the subtype A prefusion F indicated 11% of surface residues to be different, with an alpha-carbon root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) of 1.2 Å; antigenic site Ø, however, differed in 23% of its surface residues and had an alpha-carbon RMSD of 2.2 Å. Immunization of vaccine-tested animals with DS-Cav1-stabilized B18537 F induced neutralizing responses ~100-fold higher than with postfusion B18537 F. Notably, elicited responses neutralized RSV subtypes A and B at similar levels and were directed towards both conserved equatorial and diverse apical regions. Conclusion:We propose that structural differences in apical and equatorial sites-coupled to differently focused immune responses-provide a molecular explanation for observed differences in elicited subtype A and B neutralizing responses.
Project description:Pre-fusion stabilizing mutations (DS-Cav1) in soluble fusion (F) proteins of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) were previously reported. Here we investigated the antigenic and immunogenic properties of pre-fusion like RSV F proteins on enveloped virus-like particles (VLP). Additional mutations were introduced to DS-Cav1 (F-dcmTM VLP); fusion peptide deletion and cleavage mutation site 1 (F1d-dcmTM VLP) or both sites (F12d-dcmTM VLP). F1d-dcmTM VLP and F12d-dcmTM VLP displayed higher reactivity against pre-fusion specific site Ø and antigenic site I and II specific monoclonal antibodies, compared to F-dcmTM VLP with DS-Cav1 only. Mice immunized with F1d-dcmTM VLP and F12d-dcmTM VLP induced higher levels of DS-Cav1 pre-fusion specific IgG antibodies, RSV neutralizing activity titers, and effective lung viral clearance after challenge. These results suggest that cleavage site mutations and fusion peptide deletion in addition to DS-Cav1 mutations have contributed to structural stabilization of pre-fusion like F conformation on enveloped VLP, capable of inducing high levels of pre-fusion F specific and RSV neutralizing antibodies.
Project description:Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most important viral agent of severe pediatric respiratory tract disease worldwide, but it lacks a licensed vaccine or suitable antiviral drug. A live attenuated chimeric bovine/human parainfluenza virus type 3 (rB/HPIV3) was developed previously as a vector expressing RSV fusion (F) protein to confer bivalent protection against RSV and HPIV3. In a previous clinical trial in virus-naive children, rB/HPIV3 was well tolerated but the immunogenicity of wild-type RSV F was unsatisfactory. We previously modified RSV F with a designed disulfide bond (DS) to increase stability in the prefusion (pre-F) conformation and to be efficiently packaged in the vector virion. Here, we further stabilized pre-F by adding both disulfide and cavity-filling mutations (DS-Cav1), and we also modified RSV F codon usage to have a lower CpG content and a higher level of expression. This RSV F open reading frame was evaluated in rB/HPIV3 in three forms: (i) pre-F without vector-packaging signal, (ii) pre-F with vector-packaging signal, and (iii) secreted pre-F ectodomain trimer. Despite being efficiently expressed, the secreted pre-F was poorly immunogenic. DS-Cav1 stabilized pre-F, with or without packaging, induced higher titers of pre-F specific antibodies in hamsters, and improved the quality of RSV-neutralizing serum antibodies. Codon-optimized RSV F containing fewer CpG dinucleotides had higher F expression, replicated more efficiently in vivo, and was more immunogenic. The combination of DS-Cav1 pre-F stabilization, optimized codon usage, reduced CpG content, and vector packaging significantly improved vector immunogenicity and protective efficacy against RSV. This provides an improved vectored RSV vaccine candidate suitable for pediatric clinical evaluation.IMPORTANCE RSV and HPIV3 are the first and second leading viral causes of severe pediatric respiratory disease worldwide. Licensed vaccines or suitable antiviral drugs are not available. We are developing a chimeric rB/HPIV3 vector expressing RSV F as a bivalent RSV/HPIV3 vaccine and have been evaluating means to increase RSV F immunogenicity. In this study, we evaluated the effects of improved stabilization of F in the pre-F conformation and of codon optimization resulting in reduced CpG content and greater pre-F expression. Reduced CpG content dampened the interferon response to infection, promoting higher replication and increased F expression. We demonstrate that improved pre-F stabilization and strategic manipulation of codon usage, together with efficient pre-F packaging into vector virions, significantly increased F immunogenicity in the bivalent RSV/HPIV3 vaccine. The improved immunogenicity included induction of increased titers of high-quality complement-independent antibodies with greater pre-F site Ø binding and greater protection against RSV challenge.
Project description:Infection with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) causes both upper and lower respiratory tract disease in humans, leading to significant morbidity and mortality in both young children and older adults. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine available, and therapeutic options are limited. During the infection process, the type I viral fusion (F) glycoprotein on the surface of the RSV particle rearranges from a metastable prefusion conformation to a highly stable postfusion form. In people naturally infected with RSV, most potent neutralizing antibodies are directed to the prefusion form of the F protein. Therefore, an engineered RSV F protein stabilized in the prefusion conformation (DS-Cav1) is an attractive vaccine candidate. Long-term stability at 4°C or higher is a desirable attribute for a commercial subunit vaccine antigen. To assess the stability of DS-Cav1, we developed assays using D25, an antibody which recognizes the prefusion F-specific antigenic site Ø, and a novel antibody 4D7, which was found to bind antigenic site I on the postfusion form of RSV F. Biophysical analysis indicated that, upon long-term storage at 4°C, DS-Cav1 undergoes a conformational change, adopting alternate structures that concomitantly lose the site Ø epitope and gain the ability to bind 4D7.
Project description:Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a worldwide public health concern for which no vaccine is available. Elucidation of the prefusion structure of the RSV F glycoprotein and its identification as the main target of neutralizing antibodies have provided new opportunities for development of an effective vaccine. Here, we describe the structure-based design of a self-assembling protein nanoparticle presenting a prefusion-stabilized variant of the F glycoprotein trimer (DS-Cav1) in a repetitive array on the nanoparticle exterior. The two-component nature of the nanoparticle scaffold enabled the production of highly ordered, monodisperse immunogens that display DS-Cav1 at controllable density. In mice and nonhuman primates, the full-valency nanoparticle immunogen displaying 20 DS-Cav1 trimers induced neutralizing antibody responses ?10-fold higher than trimeric DS-Cav1. These results motivate continued development of this promising nanoparticle RSV vaccine candidate and establish computationally designed two-component nanoparticles as a robust and customizable platform for structure-based vaccine design.
Project description:Recombinant subunit vaccines should contain minimal non-pathogen motifs to reduce potential off-target reactivity. We recently developed a vaccine antigen against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which comprised the fusion (F) glycoprotein stabilized in its pre-fusion trimeric conformation by "DS-Cav1" mutations and by an appended C-terminal trimerization motif or "foldon" from T4-bacteriophage fibritin. Here we investigate the creation of a cysteine zipper to allow for the removal of the phage foldon, while maintaining the immunogenicity of the parent DS-Cav1+foldon antigen. Constructs without foldon yielded RSV F monomers, and enzymatic removal of the phage foldon from pre-fusion F trimers resulted in their dissociation into monomers. Because the native C terminus of the pre-fusion RSV F ectodomain encompasses a viral trimeric coiled-coil, we explored whether introduction of cysteine residues capable of forming inter-protomer disulfides might allow for stable trimers. Structural modeling indicated the introduced cysteines to form disulfide "rings", with each ring comprising a different set of inward facing residues of the coiled-coil. Three sets of rings could be placed within the native RSV F coiled-coil, and additional rings could be added by duplicating portions of the coiled-coil. High levels of neutralizing activity in mice, equivalent to that of the parent DS-Cav1+foldon antigen, were elicited by a 4-ring stabilized RSV F trimer with no foldon. Structure-based alteration of a viral coiled-coil to create a cysteine zipper thus allows a phage trimerization motif to be removed from a candidate vaccine antigen.
Project description:Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) is responsible for serious lower respiratory tract disease in infants and in older adults, and remains an important vaccine need. RSV fusion (F) glycoprotein is a key target for neutralizing antibodies. RSV F stabilized in its pre-fusion conformation (DS-Cav1 F) induces high neutralizing antibody titers in naïve animals, but it remains unknown to what extent pre-fusion F can boost pre-existing neutralizing responses in RSV seropositive adults. We here assess DS-Cav1 F immunogenicity in seropositive cattle pre-exposed to bovine RSV, a virus closely related to hRSV. A single immunization with non-adjuvanted DS-Cav1 F strongly boosts RSV neutralizing responses, directed towards pre-fusion F-specific epitopes, whereas a post-fusion F is unable to do so. Vaccination with pre-fusion F thus represents a promising strategy for maternal immunization and for other RSV vaccine target populations such as older adults.
Project description:Structure-based design of vaccines, particularly the iterative optimization used so successfully in the structure-based design of drugs, has been a long-sought goal. We previously developed a first-generation vaccine antigen called DS-Cav1, comprising a prefusion-stabilized form of the fusion (F) glycoprotein, which elicits high-titer protective responses against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in mice and macaques. Here we report the improvement of DS-Cav1 through iterative cycles of structure-based design that significantly increased the titer of RSV-protective responses. The resultant second-generation 'DS2'-stabilized immunogens have their F subunits genetically linked, their fusion peptides deleted and their interprotomer movements stabilized by an additional disulfide bond. These DS2 immunogens are promising vaccine candidates with superior attributes, such as their lack of a requirement for furin cleavage and their increased antigenic stability against heat inactivation. The iterative structure-based improvement described here may have utility in the optimization of other vaccine antigens.
Project description:Efforts to develop a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have primarily focused on the RSV fusion protein. The pre-fusion conformation of this protein induces the most potent neutralizing antibodies and is the focus of recent efforts in vaccine development. Following the first identification of mutations in the RSV F protein (DS-Cav1 mutant protein) that stabilized the pre-fusion conformation, other mutant stabilized pre-fusion F proteins have been described. To determine if there are differences in alternate versions of stabilized pre-fusion F proteins, we explored the use, as vaccine candidates, of virus-like particles (VLPs) containing five different pre-fusion F proteins, including the DS-Cav1 protein. The expression of these five pre-F proteins, their assembly into VLPs, their pre-fusion conformation stability in VLPs, their reactivity with anti-F monoclonal antibodies, and their induction of immune responses after the immunization of mice, were characterized, comparing VLPs containing the DS-Cav1 pre-F protein with VLPs containing four alternative pre-fusion F proteins. The concentrations of anti-F IgG induced by each VLP that blocked the binding of prototype monoclonal antibodies using two different soluble pre-fusion F proteins as targets were measured. Our results indicate that both the conformation and immunogenicity of alternative VLP associated stabilized pre-fusion RSV F proteins are different from those of DS-Cav1 VLPs.
Project description:Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is estimated to claim more lives among infants <1 year old than any other single pathogen, except malaria, and poses a substantial global health burden. Viral entry is mediated by a type I fusion glycoprotein (F) that transitions from a metastable prefusion (pre-F) to a stable postfusion (post-F) trimer. A highly neutralization-sensitive epitope, antigenic site Ø, is found only on pre-F. We determined what fraction of neutralizing (NT) activity in human sera is dependent on antibodies specific for antigenic site Ø or other antigenic sites on F in healthy subjects from ages 7 to 93 years. Adsorption of individual sera with stabilized pre-F protein removed >90% of NT activity and depleted binding antibodies to both F conformations. In contrast, adsorption with post-F removed ~30% of NT activity, and binding antibodies to pre-F were retained. These findings were consistent across all age groups. Protein competition neutralization assays with pre-F mutants in which sites Ø or II were altered to knock out binding of antibodies to the corresponding sites showed that these sites accounted for ~35 and <10% of NT activity, respectively. Binding competition assays with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) indicated that the amount of site Ø-specific antibodies correlated with NT activity, whereas the magnitude of binding competed by site II mAbs did not correlate with neutralization. Our results indicate that RSV NT activity in human sera is primarily derived from pre-F-specific antibodies, and therefore, inducing or boosting NT activity by vaccination will be facilitated by using pre-F antigens that preserve site Ø.