Reproduction (Cambridge, England)

Immunogenicity and contraceptive potential of three infertility-relevant zona pellucida 2 epitopes in the marsupial brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula).

PMID 17244744


In a previous study, three infertility-relevant epitopes of possum ZP2 (Pep12 (amino acids 111-125), Pep31 (amino acids 301-315), and Pep44 (amino acids 431-445)) were identified using sera from possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) immunized with recombinant possum zona pellucida 2 (ZP2) constructs, and a synthetic peptide library of possum ZP2 protein. In this study, the three peptides were conjugated to keyhole limpet hemocyanin and 300 mug of each conjugated peptide were administered subcutaneously to female possums (n = 20 per peptide) in complete Freund's adjuvant. Immunogen doses were repeated 3 and 6 weeks later using incomplete Freund's adjuvant. Control animals were immunized with either phosphate-buffered saline only (n = 10) or 300 mug keyhole limpet hemocyanin (n = 10), administered with the same adjuvants. Serum antibodies from animals immunized against these three epitopes bound to the corresponding possum ZP2 peptides, recombinant possum ZP2 protein constructs, and native zona. Possum fertility was assessed following superovulation and artificial insemination. Peptides Pep12 and Pep31 had no significant effects on fertility parameters (P > 0.05). However, animals immunized with Pep44 had lower egg fertilization rates (immunized 19.5% versus control 60.5%, P < 0.05) and produced significantly fewer embryos than control animals (immunized 0.5 embryos versus control 2.4 embryos, P < 0.05). The number of Pep44-immunized females that produced embryos was reduced by 64%. Identification and characterization of possum infertility-relevant epitopes on possum ZP2 protein will assist development of safe, humane, and possum-specific immunocontraceptive vaccines for controlling the introduced possums in New Zealand.

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