PLoS neglected tropical diseases

An Epitope-Substituted DNA Vaccine Improves Safety and Immunogenicity against Dengue Virus Type 2.

PMID 26135599


Dengue virus (DENV), a global disease, is divided into four serotypes (DENV1-4). Cross-reactive and non-neutralizing antibodies against envelope (E) protein of DENV bind to the Fcγ receptors (FcγR) of cells, and thereby exacerbate viral infection by heterologous serotypes via antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). Identification and modification of enhancing epitopes may mitigate enhancement of DENV infection. In this study, we characterized the cross-reactive DB21-6 and DB39-2 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against domain I-II of DENV; these antibodies poorly neutralized and potently enhanced DENV infection both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, two enhancing mAbs, DB21-6 and DB39-2, were observed to compete with sera antibodies from patients infected with dengue. The epitopes of these enhancing mAbs were identified using phage display, structural prediction, and mapping of virus-like particle (VLP) mutants. N8, R9, V12, and E13 are the reactive residues of DB21-6, while N8, R9, and E13 are the reactive residues of DB39-2. N8 substitution tends to maintain VLP secretion, and decreases the binding activity of DB21-6 and DB39-2. The immunized sera from N8 substitution (N8R) DNA vaccine exerted greater neutralizing and protective activity than wild-type (WT)-immunized sera, both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, treatment with N8R-immunized sera reduced the enhancement of mortality in AG129 mice. These results support identification and substitution of enhancing epitope as a novel strategy for developing safe dengue vaccines.