Increased immunogenicity and protective efficacy of influenza M2e fused to a tetramerizing protein

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The ectodomain of the matrix 2 protein (M2e) of influenza A virus represents an attractive target for developing a universal influenza A vaccine, with its sequence being highly conserved amongst human variants of this virus. With the aim of targeting conformational epitopes presumably shared by diverse influenza A viruses, a vaccine (M2e-NSP4) was constructed linking M2e (in its consensus sequence) to the rotavirus fragment NSP4(98-135); due to its coiled-coil region this fragment is known to form tetramers in aqueous solution and in this manner we hoped to mimick the natural configuration of M2e as presented in membranes. M2e-NSP4 was then evaluated side-by-side with synthetic M2e peptide for its immunogenicity and protective efficacy in a murine influenza challenge model. Here we demonstrate that M2e fused to the tetramerizing protein induces an accelerated, augmented and more broadly reactive antibody response than does M2e peptide as measured in two different assays. Most importantly, vaccination with M2e-NSP4 caused a significant decrease in lung virus load early after challenge with influenza A virus and maintained its efficacy against a lethal challenge even at very low vaccine doses. Based on the results presented in this study M2e-NSP4 merits further investigation as a candidate for or as a component of a universal influenza A vaccine.
Original languageEnglish
JournalP L o S One
Issue number10
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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