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Infect Immun. 2006 Dec;74(12):6624-31. Epub 2006 Sep 18.

Immunogenicity of a Yersinia pestis vaccine antigen monomerized by circular permutation.

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Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Framlington Place, Newcastle NE2 4HH, United Kingdom.


Caf1, a chaperone-usher protein from Yersinia pestis, is a major protective antigen in the development of subunit vaccines against plague. However, recombinant Caf1 forms polymers of indeterminate size. We report the conversion of Caf1 from a polymer to a monomer by circular permutation of the gene. Biophysical evaluation confirmed that the engineered Caf1 was a folded monomer. We compared the immunogenicity of the engineered monomer with polymeric Caf1 in antigen presentation assays to CD4 T-cell hybridomas in vitro, as well as in the induction of antibody responses and protection against subcutaneous challenge with Y. pestis in vivo. In C57BL/6 mice, for which the major H-2(b)-restricted immunodominant CD4 T-cell epitopes were intact in the engineered monomer, immunogenicity and protective efficacy were preserved, although antibody titers were decreased 10-fold. Disruption of an H-2(d)-restricted immunodominant CD4 T-cell epitope during circular permutation resulted in a compromised T-cell response, a low postvaccination antibody titer, and a lack of protection of BALB/c mice. The use of circular permutation in vaccine design has not been reported previously.

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