Immune-engineered H7N9 influenza hemagglutinin improves protection against viral influenza virus challenge
Jang H, Meyers LM, Boyle C, De Groot AS, Moise L, Ross TM
The influenza hemagglutinin (HA) isolated from avian H7N9 influenza virus strains elicit weak immune responses. This low immunogenicity may be due to a regulatory T cell (T)-stimulating epitopes in HA from the H7N9 isolate A/Anhui/1/2013 (Anh/13). In this report, this T stimulating sequence was removed from the wild-type (WT) H7 HA amino acid sequence and replaced with a conserved CD4 + T cell stimulating sequences from human seasonal H3N2 strains and designed OPT1 H7 HA. The effectiveness of this optimized H7 HA protein was determined using a humanized mouse (HLA-DR3) expressing the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DR3 allele. HLA-DR3 mice were pre-immunized by infecting with H3N2 influenza virus, A/Hong Kong/4108/2014 and then vaccinated intramuscularly with either the WT H7 HA from Anh/13 or the OPT1 H7 HA antigen without adjuvant. The OPT1 H7 HA vaccination group elicited higher H7 HA-specific IgG titers that resulted in a lower mortality, weight loss, and lung viral titer following lethal challenge with the H7N9 Anh/13 influenza virus compared to WT-vaccinated mice. Overall, T-cell epitope-engineered vaccines can improve the immunogenicity of H7 HA antigens resulting in enhanced survival and lower morbidity against H7N9 influenza virus challenge.
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