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Vaccine. 2009 May 11;27(21):2775-80. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.03.011. Epub 2009 Mar 13.

Small protective fragments of the Yersinia pestis V antigen.

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Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 0JQ, UK.


Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of plague. Naturally occurring cases of the disease and the potential use of Y. pestis as a bioweapon fuel the need for efficacious vaccines. The most recent plague vaccine is a killed whole cell preparation that is expensive to manufacture and its side effects are common. The protective antigens F1 and V have been identified and are currently being developed as a combined subunit vaccine. Protective epitopes of the V antigen have previously been shown to reside in the central part of the protein. In order to identify the minimum protective fragment of the V antigen that can provide protection against plague, the structures of several small fragments of the antigen were modelled in silico and recombinant proteins were produced. These fragments were probed for the retention of a protective epitope using a protective monoclonal antibody and protection against Y. pestis in mice was determined. The smallest protective fragment of V antigen identified comprised amino acids 135-262. Finally the ability of this fragment to confer protection when given in the context of a DNA vaccine was confirmed.

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