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Vaccine. 2012 May 21;30(24):3653-65. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.03.035. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

A virus-like particle vaccine platform elicits heightened and hastened local lung mucosal antibody production after a single dose.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59718, USA.


We show that a model antigen, ovalbumin (OVA), can be chemically conjugated to the exterior of a small heat shock protein (sHsp) cage that has structural similarities to virus-like particles (VLPs). OVA-sHsp conjugation efficiency was dependent upon the stoichiometry and the length of the small molecule linker utilized, and the attachment position on the sHsp cage. When conjugated OVA-sHsp was delivered intranasally to naïve mice, the resulting immune response to OVA was accelerated and intensified, and OVA-specific IgG1 responses were apparent within 5 days after a single immunizing dose, illustrating its utility for vaccine development. If animals were pretreated with a disparate VLP, P22 (a non-replicative bacteriophage capsid), before OVA-sHsp conjugate immunization, OVA-specific IgG1 responses were apparent already by 4 days after a single immunizing dose of conjugate in OVA-naïve mice. Additionally, the mice pretreated with P22 produced high titer mucosal IgA, and isotype-switched OVA-specific serum IgG. Similarly, sHsp pretreatment enhanced the accumulation of lung germinal center B cells, T follicular helper cells, and increased polymeric Ig receptor expression, priming the lungs for subsequent IgG and IgA responses to influenza virus challenge. Thus, sHsp nanoparticles elicited quick and intense antibody responses and these accelerated responses could similarly be induced to antigen chemically conjugated to the sHsp. Pretreatment of mice with P22 further accelerated the onset of the antibody response to OVA-sHsp, demonstrating the utility of conjugating antigens to VLPs for pre-, or possibly post-exposure prophylaxis of lung, all without the need for adjuvant.

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