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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034272. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Monoclonal antibodies to meningococcal factor H binding protein with overlapping epitopes and discordant functional activity.

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Center for Immunobiology and Vaccine Development, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California, United States of America.



Meningococcal factor H binding protein (fHbp) is a promising vaccine candidate. Anti-fHbp antibodies can bind to meningococci and elicit complement-mediated bactericidal activity directly. The antibodies also can block binding of the human complement down-regulator, factor H (fH). Without bound fH, the organism would be expected to have increased susceptibility to bacteriolysis. Here we describe bactericidal activity of two anti-fHbp mAbs with overlapping epitopes in relation to their different effects on fH binding and bactericidal activity.


Both mAbs recognized prevalent fHbp sequence variants in variant group 1. Using yeast display and site-specific mutagenesis, binding of one of the mAbs (JAR 1, IgG3) to fHbp was eliminated by a single amino acid substitution, R204A, and was decreased by K143A but not by R204H or D142A. The JAR 1 epitope overlapped that of previously described mAb (mAb502, IgG2a) whose binding to fHbp was eliminated by R204A or R204H substitutions, and was decreased by D142A but not by K143A. Although JAR 1 and mAb502 appeared to have overlapping epitopes, only JAR 1 inhibited binding of fH to fHbp and had human complement-mediated bactericidal activity. mAb502 enhanced fH binding and lacked human complement-mediated bactericidal activity. To control for confounding effects of different mouse IgG subclasses on complement activation, we created chimeric mAbs in which the mouse mAb502 or JAR 1 paratopes were paired with human IgG1 constant regions. While both chimeric mAbs showed similar binding to fHbp, only JAR 1, which inhibited fH binding, had human complement-mediated bactericidal activity.


The lack of human complement-mediated bactericidal activity by anti-fHbp mAb502 appeared to result from an inability to inhibit binding of fH. These results underscore the importance of inhibition of fH binding for anti-fHbp mAb bactericidal activity.

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