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Expression, purification, and crystallization of CTB-MPR₆₄₉_₆₈₄, a candidate mucosal vaccine component against HIV-1

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CTB-MPR649-684 is a translational fusion protein consisting of the cholera toxin B subunit (CTB) and the conserved residues 649-684 of gp41 membrane proximal region (MPR). It is a candidate vaccine component aimed at early steps of the HIV-1 infection by

CTB-MPR649-684 is a translational fusion protein consisting of the cholera toxin B subunit (CTB) and the conserved residues 649-684 of gp41 membrane proximal region (MPR). It is a candidate vaccine component aimed at early steps of the HIV-1 infection by blocking viral mucosal transmission. Bacterially produced CTB-MPR was previously shown to induce HIV-1 transcytosis-blocking antibodies in mice and rabbits. However, the induction of high-titer MPR specific antibodies with HIV-1 transcytosis blocking ability remains a challenge as the immuno-dominance of CTB overshadows the response to MPR. X-ray crystallography was used to investigate the structure of CTB-MPR with the goal of identifying potential solutions to improve the immune response of MPR. Various CTB-MPR variants were designed using different linkers connecting the two fusion proteins. The procedures for over-expression E. coli and purification have been optimized for each of the variants of CTB-MPR. The purity and oligomeric homogeneity of the fusion protein was demonstrated by electrophoresis, size-exclusion chromatography, dynamic light scattering, and immuno-blot analysis. Crystallization conditions for macroscopic and micro
ano-crystals have been established for the different variants of the fusion protein. Diffraction patterns were collected by using both conventional and serial femto-second crystallography techniques. The two crystallography techniques showed very interesting differences in both the crystal packing and unit cell dimensions of the same CTB-MPR construct. Although information has been gathered on CTB-MPR, the intact structure of fusion protein was not solved as the MPR region showed only weak electron density or was cleaved during crystallization of macroscopic crystals. The MPR region is present in micro
ano-crystals, but due to the severe limitation of the Free Electron Laser beamtime, only a partial data set was obtained and is insufficient for structure determination. However, the work of this thesis has established methods to purify large quantities of CTB-MPR and has established procedures to grow crystals for X-ray structure analysis. This has set the foundation for future structure determination experiments as well as immunization studies.

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2015

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Searching for an HIV vaccine: a heterologous prime-boost system using replicating vaccinia virus and plant-produced virus-like particles

Description

The HIV-1 pandemic continues to cause millions of new infections and AIDS-related deaths each year, and a majority of these occur in regions of the world with limited access to antiretroviral therapy. Therefore, an HIV-1 vaccine is still desperately needed.

The HIV-1 pandemic continues to cause millions of new infections and AIDS-related deaths each year, and a majority of these occur in regions of the world with limited access to antiretroviral therapy. Therefore, an HIV-1 vaccine is still desperately needed. The most successful HIV-1 clinical trial to date used a non-replicating canarypox viral vector and protein boosting, yet its modest efficacy left room for improvement. Efforts to derive novel vectors which can be both safe and immunogenic, have spawned a new era of live, viral vectors. One such vaccinia virus vector, NYVAC-KC, was specifically designed to replicate in humans and had several immune modulators deleted to improve immunogenicity and reduce pathogenicity. Two NYVAC-KC vectors were generated: one expressing the Gag capsid, and one with deconstructed-gp41 (dgp41), which contains an important neutralizing antibody target, the membrane proximal external region (MPER). These vectors were combined with HIV-1 Gag/dgp41 virus-like particles (VLPs) produced in the tobacco-relative Nicotiana benthamiana. Different plant expression vectors were compared in an effort to improve yield. A Geminivirus-based vector was shown to increase the amount of MPER present in VLPs, thus potentially enhancing immunogenicity. Furthermore, these VLPs were shown to interact with the innate immune system through Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling, which activated antigen presenting cells to induce a Th2-biased response in a TLR-dependent manner. Furthermore, expression of Gag and dgp41 in NYVAC-KC vectors resulted in activation of antiviral signaling pathways reliant on TBK1/IRF3, which necessitated the use of higher doses in mice to match the immunogenicity of wild-type viral vectors. VLPs and NYVAC-KC vectors were tested in mice, ultimately showing that the best antibody and Gag-specific T cell responses were generated when both components were administered simultaneously. Thus, plant-produced VLPs and poxvirus vectors represent a highly immunogenic HIV-1 vaccine candidate that warrants further study.

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2016