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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2010 Jul;17(7):1074-8. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00103-10. Epub 2010 Jun 2.

Impaired immunogenicity of a meningococcal factor H-binding protein vaccine engineered to eliminate factor h binding.

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  • 1Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, 5700 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609, USA.


Meningococcal factor H-binding protein (fHbp) is a promising antigen that is part of two vaccines in clinical development. The protein specifically binds human complement factor H (fH), which downregulates complement activation on the bacterial surface and enables the organism to evade host defenses. In humans, the vaccine antigen forms a complex with fH, which may affect anti-fHbp antibody repertoire and decrease serum bactericidal activity by covering important fHbp epitopes. In a recent study, fHbp residues in contact with fH were identified from a crystal structure. Two fHbp glutamate residues that mediated ion-pair interactions with fH were replaced with alanine, and the resulting E218A/E239A mutant no longer bound the fH fragment. In the present study, we generated the E218A/E239A mutant recombinant protein and confirmed the lack of fH binding. By enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the mutant fHbp showed similar respective concentration-dependent inhibition of binding of four bactericidal anti-fHbp monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to fHbp, compared with inhibition by the soluble wild-type protein. In two mouse strains, the mutant fHbp elicited up to 4-fold-lower IgG anti-fHbp antibody titers and up to 20-fold-lower serum bactericidal titers than those elicited by the wild-type fHbp vaccine. Thus, although introduction of the two alanine substitutions to eliminate fH binding did not appear to destabilize the molecule globally, the mutations resulted in decreased immunogenicity in mouse models in which neither the mutant nor the wild-type control vaccine bound fH. These results cast doubt on the vaccine potential in humans of this mutant fHbp.

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