Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global health problem for which no vaccine is available. HCV has a highly heterogeneous RNA genome and can be classified into seven genotypes. Due to the high genetic and resultant antigenic variation among the genotypes, inducing antibodies capable of neutralizing most of the HCV genotypes by experimental vaccination has been challenging. Previous efforts focused on priming humoral immune responses with recombinant HCV envelope E2 protein produced in mammalian cells. Here, we report that a soluble form of HCV E2 (sE2) produced in insect cells possesses different glycosylation patterns and is more immunogenic, as evidenced by the induction of higher titers of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) against cell culture-derived HCV (HCVcc) harboring structural proteins from a diverse array of HCV genotypes. We affirm that continuous and discontinuous epitopes of well-characterized bNAbs are conserved, suggesting that sE2 produced in insect cells is properly folded. In a genetically humanized mouse model, active immunization with sE2 efficiently protected against challenge with a heterologous HCV genotype. These data not only demonstrate that sE2 is a promising HCV vaccine candidate, but also highlight the importance of glycosylation patterns in developing subunit viral vaccines.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science