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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010 Nov;59(11):1685-96. doi: 10.1007/s00262-010-0895-0. Epub 2010 Jul 21.

Generation of a tumor vaccine candidate based on conjugation of a MUC1 peptide to polyionic papillomavirus virus-like particles.

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Department of Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Virus-like particles (VLPs) are promising vaccine technology due to their safety and ability to elicit strong immune responses. Chimeric VLPs can extend this technology to low immunogenicity foreign antigens. However, insertion of foreign epitopes into the sequence of self-assembling proteins can have unpredictable effects on the assembly process. We aimed to generate chimeric bovine papillomavirus (BPV) VLPs displaying a repetitive array of polyanionic docking sites on their surface. These VLPs can serve as platform for covalent coupling of polycationic fusion proteins. We generated baculoviruses expressing chimeric BPV L1 protein with insertion of a polyglutamic-cysteine residue in the BC, DE, HI loops and the H4 helix. Expression in insect cells yielded assembled VLPs only from insertion in HI loop. Insertion in DE loop and H4 helix resulted in partially formed VLPs and capsomeres, respectively. The polyanionic sites on the surface of VLPs and capsomeres were decorated with a polycationic MUC1 peptide containing a polyarginine-cysteine residue fused to 20 amino acids of the MUC1 tandem repeat through electrostatic interactions and redox-induced disulfide bond formation. MUC1-conjugated fully assembled VLPs induced robust activation of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells, which could then present MUC1 antigen to MUC1-specific T cell hybridomas and primary naïve MUC1-specific T cells obtained from a MUC1-specific TCR transgenic mice. Immunization of human MUC1 transgenic mice, where MUC1 is a self-antigen, with the VLP vaccine induced MUC1-specific CTL, delayed the growth of MUC1 transplanted tumors and elicited complete tumor rejection in some animals.

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