Cryo-EM study of Hepatitis B virus core antigen capsids decorated with antibodies from a human patient

Laboratory of Structural Biology Research, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
Journal of Structural Biology (Impact Factor: 3.23). 10/2011; 177(1):145-51. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsb.2011.10.003
Source: PubMed


The capsid (core antigen, HBcAg) is one of three major antigens present in patients infected with Hepatitis B virus. The capsids are icosahedral particles, whose most prominent features are spikes that extend 25 Å out from the contiguous "floor". At the spike tip are two copies of the "immunodominant loop". Previously, the epitopes of seven murine monoclonal antibodies have been identified by cryo-EM analysis of Fab-labeled capsids. All but one are conformational and all but one map around the spike tip. The exception, which is also the tightest-binder, straddles an inter-molecular interface on the floor. Seeking to relate these observations to the immunological response of infected humans, we isolated anti-cAg antibodies from a patient, prepared Fabs, and analyzed their binding to capsids. A priori, one possibility was that many different Fabs would give an undifferentiated continuum of Fab-related density. In fact, the density observed was highly differentiated and could be reproduced by modeling with just five Fabs, three binding to the spike and two to the floor. These results show that epitopes on the floor, far (~30 Å) from the immunodominant loop, are clinically relevant and that murine anti-cAg antibodies afford a good model for the human system.

Download full-text


Available from: Giovanni Cardone
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In spite of its recent achievements, the technique of single particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM) has not been widely used to study proteins smaller than 100 kDa, although it is a highly desirable application of this technique. One fundamental limitation is that images of small proteins embedded in vitreous ice do not contain adequate features for accurate image alignment. We describe a general strategy to overcome this limitation by selecting a fragment antigen binding (Fab) to form a stable and rigid complex with a target protein, thus providing a defined feature for accurate image alignment. Using this approach, we determined a three-dimensional structure of an ∼65 kDa protein by single particle cryoEM. Because Fabs can be readily generated against a wide range of proteins by phage display, this approach is generally applicable to study many small proteins by single particle cryoEM.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Structure
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Previously, the livers of patients suffering from acute liver failure (ALF), a potentially fatal syndrome arising from infection by Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), were found to contain massive amounts of an antibody specific for the core antigen (HBcAg) capsid. We have used cryo-electron microscopy and molecular modeling to define its epitope. HBV capsids are icosahedral shells with 25Å-long dimeric spikes, each a 4-helix bundle, protruding from the contiguous "floor". Of the anti-HBcAg antibodies previously characterized, most bind around the spike tip while one binds to the floor. The ALF-associated antibody binds tangentially to a novel site on the side of the spike. This epitope is conformational. The Fab binds with high affinity to its principal determinants but has lower affinities for quasi-equivalent variants. The highest occupancy site is on one side of a spike, with no detectable binding to the corresponding site on the other side. Binding of one Fab per dimer was also observed by analytical ultracentrifugation. The Fab did not bind to the e-antigen dimer, a non-assembling variant of capsid protein. These findings support the propositions that antibodies with particular specificities may correlate with different clinical expressions of HBV infection and that antibodies directed to particular HBcAg epitopes may be involved in ALF pathogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Journal of Structural Biology
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection afflicts millions worldwide with cirrhosis and liver cancer. HBV e-antigen (HBeAg), a clinical marker for disease severity, is a nonparticulate variant of the protein (core antigen, HBcAg) that forms the building-blocks of capsids. HBeAg is not required for virion production, but is implicated in establishing immune tolerance and chronic infection. Here, we report the crystal structure of HBeAg, which clarifies how the short N-terminal propeptide of HBeAg induces a radically altered mode of dimerization relative to HBcAg (∼140° rotation), locked into place through formation of intramolecular disulfide bridges. This structural switch precludes capsid assembly and engenders a distinct antigenic repertoire, explaining why the two antigens are cross-reactive at the T cell level (through sequence identity) but not at the B cell level (through conformation). The structure offers insight into how HBeAg may establish immune tolerance for HBcAg while evading its robust immunogenicity.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2012 · Structure
Show more