Induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies using a secreted form of the hepatitis C virus E1E2 heterodimer as a vaccine candidate

Ruixue Wang, Saori Suzuki, Johnathan D. Guest, Brigitte Heller, Maricar Almeda, Alexander K. Andrianov, Alexander Marin, Roy A. Mariuzza, Zhen Yong Keck, Steven K.H. Foung, Abdul S. Yunus, Brian G. Pierce, Eric A. Toth, Alexander Ploss, Thomas R. Fuerst

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9 Scopus citations


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a global disease burden, and a preventive vaccine is needed to control or eradicate the virus. Despite the advent of effective antiviral therapy, this treatment is not accessible to many patients and does not prevent reinfection, making chronic hepatitis C an ongoing global health problem. Thus, development of a prophylactic vaccine will represent a significant step toward global eradication of HCV. HCV exhibits high genetic variability, which leads frequently to immune escape. However, a considerable challenge faced in HCV vaccine development is designing an antigen that elicits broadly neutralizing antibodies. Here, we characterized the immunogenicity of a vaccine based on a soluble, secreted form of the E1E2 envelope heterodimer (sE1E2.LZ). Sera from mice immunized with sE1E2.LZ exhibited an anti-E1E2–specific response comparable to mice immunized with membrane-bound E1E2 (mbE1E2) or a soluble E2 ectodomain (sE2). In competition-inhibition ELISA using antigenic domain-specific neutralizing and nonneutralizing antibodies, sera from sE1E2.LZ-immunized mice showed nearly identical or stronger competition toward neutralizing antibodies when compared with mbE1E2. In contrast, sera from mice immunized with sE2, and to a lesser extent mbE1E2, competed more effectively with nonneutralizing antibodies. An assessment of neutralization activity using both HCV pseudoparticles and cell culture–derived infectious HCV showed that immunization with sE1E2.LZ elicited the broadest neutralization activity of the three antigens, and sE1E2.LZ induced neutralization activity against all genotypes. These results indicate that our native-like soluble glycoprotein design, sE1E2.LZ, induces broadly neutralizing antibodies and serves as a promising vaccine candidate for further development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2112008119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • E1E2 envelope glycoproteins
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Secreted
  • Vaccine


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