ABSTRACT: Highly immunogenic capsomers (pentamers) and virus-like particles (VLPs) were generated through insertion of foreign B cell epitopes into the surface-exposed loops of the VP1 protein of murine polyomavirus and via heterologous expression of the recombinant fusion proteins in E. coli. Usually, complex proteins like the keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) act as standard carrier devices for the display of such immunogenic peptides after chemical linkage. Here, a comparative analysis revealed that antibody responses raised against the carrier entities, KLH or VP1 pentamers, did not significantly differ up to 18 weeks, demonstrating the highly immunogenic nature of VP1-based particulate structures. The carrier-specific antibody response was reproducibly detected in the meat juice after processing. More importantly, chimeric VP1 pentamers and VLPs carrying peptides of 12 and 14 amino acids in length, inserted into the BC2 loop, induced a strong and long-lasting humoral immune response against VP1 and the inserted foreign epitope. Remarkably, the epitope-specific antibody response was only moderately decreased when VP1 pentamers were used instead of VLPs. In conclusion, we identified polyomavirus VP1-based structures displaying surface-exposed immunodominant B cell epitopes as being an efficient carrier system for the induction of potent peptide-specific antibodies. The application of this approach in vaccine marker technology in livestock holding and the meat production chain is discussed.
Biotechnology Journal 01/2007; 1(12):1435-46.