PloS one

Heterodimeric barnase-barstar vaccine molecules: influence of one versus two targeting units specific for antigen presenting cells.

PMID 23028981


It is known that targeting of antigen to antigen presenting cells (APC) increases immune responses. However, it is unclear if more than one APC-specific targeting unit in the antigenic molecule will increase responses. To address this issue, we have here made heterodimeric vaccine molecules that each express four different fusion subunits. The bacterial ribonuclease barnase and its inhibitor barstar interact with high affinity, and the barnase-barstar complex was therefore used as a dimerization unit. Barnase and barstar were fused N-terminally with single chain fragment variable (scFv)s targeting units specific for either MHC class II molecules on APC or the hapten 5-iodo-4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenylacetyl (NIP). C-terminal antigenic fusions were either the fluorescent protein mCherry or scFv(315) derived from myeloma protein M315. The heterodimeric vaccine molecules were formed both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the four different fused moieties appeared to fold correctly since they retained their specificity and function. DNA vaccination with MHC class II-targeted vaccine induced higher mCherry-specific IgG1 responses compared to non-targeted control. Since mCherry and MHC class II are in trans in this heterodimer, this suggests that heterodimeric proteins are formed in vivo without prior protein purification. Surprisingly, one targeting moiety was sufficient for the increased IgG1 response, and addition of a second targeting moiety did not increase responses. Similar results were found in in vitro T cell assays; vaccine molecules with one targeting unit were as potent as those with two. In combination with the easy cloning strategy, the heterodimeric barnase-barstar vaccine molecule could provide a flexible platform for development of novel DNA vaccines with increased potency.

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Bromopolystyrene, extent of labeling: ~4 mmol/g Br loading