Development of a Tag/Catcher-mediated capsid virus-like particle vaccine presenting the conserved Neisseria gonorrhoeae SliC antigen that blocks human lysozyme

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Virus-like particles (VLPs) are promising nanotools for the development of subunit vaccines due to high immunogenicity and safety. Herein, we explored the versatile and effective Tag/Catcher-AP205 capsid VLP (cVLP) vaccine platform to address the urgent need for the development of an effective and safe vaccine against gonorrhea. The benefits of this clinically validated cVLP platform include its ability to facilitate unidirectional, high-density display of complex/full-length antigens through an effective split-protein Tag/Catcher conjugation system. To assess this modular approach for making cVLP vaccines, we used a conserved surface lipoprotein, SliC, that contributes to the Neisseria gonorrhoeae defense against human lysozyme, as a model antigen. This protein was genetically fused at the N- or C-terminus to the small peptide Tag enabling their conjugation to AP205 cVLP, displaying the complementary Catcher. We determined that SliC with the N-terminal SpyTag, N-SliC, retained lysozyme-blocking activity and could be displayed at high density on cVLPs without causing aggregation. In mice, the N-SliC-VLP vaccines, adjuvanted with AddaVax or CpG, induced significantly higher antibody titers compared to controls. In contrast, similar vaccine formulations containing monomeric SliC were non-immunogenic. Accordingly, sera from N-SliC-VLP-immunized mice also had significantly higher human complement-dependent serum bactericidal activity. Furthermore, the N-SliC-VLP vaccines administered subcutaneously with an intranasal boost elicited systemic and vaginal IgG and IgA, whereas subcutaneous delivery alone failed to induce vaginal IgA. The N-SliC-VLP with CpG (10 µg/dose) induced the most significant increase in total serum IgG and IgG3 titers, vaginal IgG and IgA, and bactericidal antibodies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00245-23
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number12
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Society for Microbiology. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • human lysozyme inhibition, KEYWORDS gonorrhea, mouse immunization, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, SliC, Tag/Catcher-AP205 cVLP, vaccine, virus-like particles

ID: 389964374