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Development of safe and effective RSV vaccine by modified CD4 epitope in G protein core fragment (Gcf)

Cheon, IS;Shim, BS;Park, SM;Choi, Y;Jang, JE;Jung, DI;Kim, JO;Chang, J;Yun, CH;Song, MK;

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory tract infection in infants and young children worldwide, but currently no safe and effective vaccine is available. The RSV G glycoprotein (RSVG), a major attachment protein, is an important target for the induction of protective immune responses during RSV infection. However, it has been thought that a CD4+ T cell epitope (a.a. 183-195) within RSVG is associated with pathogenic pulmonary eosinophilia. To develop safe and effective RSV vaccine using RSV G protein core fragment (Gcf), several Gcf variants resulting from modification to CD4+ T cell epitope were constructed. Mice were immunized with each variant Gcf, and the levels of RSV-specific serum IgG were measured. At day 4 post-challenge with RSV subtype A or B, lung viral titers and pulmonary eosinophilia were determined and changes in body weight were monitored. With wild type Gcf derived from RSV A2 (wtAGcf), although RSV A subtype-specific immune responses were induced, vaccine-enhanced disease characterized by excessive pulmonary eosinophil recruitment and body weight loss were evident, whereas wtGcf from RSV B1 (wtBGcf) induced RSV B subtype-specific immune responses without the signs of vaccine-enhanced disease. Mice immunized with Th-mGcf, a fusion protein consisting CD4+ T cell epitope from RSV F (F51-66) conjugated to mGcf that contains alanine substitutions at a.a. position 185 and 188, showed higher levels of RSV-specific IgG response than mice immunized with mGcf. Both wtAGcf and Th-mGcf provided complete protection against RSV A2 and partial protection against RSV B. Importantly, mice immunized with Th-mGcf did not develop vaccine-enhanced disease following RSV challenge. Immunization of Th-mGcf provided protection against RSV infection without the symptom of vaccine-enhanced disease. Our study provides a novel strategy to develop a safe and effective mucosal RSV vaccine by manipulating the CD4+ T cell epitope within RSV G protein.