The recombinant rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus VP60 protein obtained from Pichia pastoris induces a strong humoral and cell-mediated immune response following intranasal immunization in mice.
ABSTRACT Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is a contagious and highly lethal viral disease of rabbits that spreads rapidly and infects animals by nasal, conjunctival and oral routes. Therefore, this experiment was undertaken to study the immune response generated after intranasal (i.n.) vaccination with the recombinant VP60 capsid protein from rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) expressed at high levels in Pichia pastoris. Groups of BALB/c mice were immunized with three doses of purified VP60 protein (Group 1), VP60 formulated within the cell debris fraction of the transformed yeast (Group 2) and placebo (Group 3) by intranasal route. Mice were also intramuscularly injected with purified VP60 protein (Group 4). A rapid antibody response specific against rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus was observed in all the experimental groups, except in Group 3, as detected by ELISA. The highest titers were found 60 days after the first immunization. Mice from Group 1 showed the highest IgG response (p<0.05) and the most balanced profile of IgG1, IgG2a and IgG2b subclasses. IgA titers specific to the virus were found only in animals from this group, which also developed the highest specific lymphocyte proliferative response. Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-12 (IL-12) gene expression was also detected after an ex vivo-specific stimulation of mice from Groups 1 and 4. These data demonstrated the capacity of VP60 protein expressed in P. pastoris to elicit a potent humoral and cell-mediated immune response following an intranasal immunization scheme.