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PhD Candidate, Biomolecular Microbiology
Department of Biological Sciences
Immunogenicity of in silico-Predicted Zika virus B cell Epitopes Displayed on Phage Virus-like Particles
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an arthropod-borne flavivirus that is transmitted predominantly through mosquitoes. Within the last decade, ZIKV infection has spread around the world especially into Latina America. ZIKV infection is associated with guillain-barré syndrome, microcephaly, and miscarriage. Currently, there are no drugs or vaccines to protect against ZIKV infections. A previous bioinformatics study had identified potential B-cell epitopes on ZIKV envelope proteins. However, the immunogenicity of these potential epitopes has never been assessed. In order to assess the immunogenicity of these epitopes and their ability to neutralize ZIKV infection, we displayed the epitopes on highly immunogenic virus-like particles (VLPs) platforms derived from MS2 and Qβ phages using both genetic insertion as well as chemical conjugation approaches. We assessed, in mice, the immunogenicity of the ZIKV peptides displayed on VLPs as well as the immunogenicity of a ZIKV envelope protein. Immunizations with VLPs displaying epitopes representing amino acid 241-259, 294-315, 346-361, 421-437 and 377-388 or a mixture of VLPs displaying these epitopes elicited anti-ZIKV peptide antibody responses. However, only sera from mice immunized with a mixture of the VLPs neutralized ZIKV strain MR-766, albeit at low dilution.
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