Vaccine Candidate Double Mutant Variants of Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli Heat-Stable Toxin
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionVaccines. 2022, 10 (2), 241. 10.3390/vaccines10020241
Heat-stable enterotoxin (ST) producing enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) strains are among the top four enteropathogens associated with moderate-to-severe diarrhea in children under five years in low-to-middle income countries, thus making ST a target for an ETEC vaccine. However, ST must be mutated to abolish its enterotoxicity and to prevent a potential immunological cross-reaction due to its structural resemblance to the human peptides uroguanylin and guanylin. To reduce the risk of eliciting cross-reacting antibodies with our lead STh-A14T toxoid, L9 was chosen as an additional mutational target. A double mutant vaccine candidate immunogen, STh-L9A/A14T, was constructed by conjugation to the synthetic virus-like mi3 nanoparticle using the SpyTag/SpyCatcher technology. This immunogen elicited STh neutralizing antibodies in mice, but with less consistency than STh-A14T peptide control immunogens. Moreover, individual sera from mice immunized with both single and double mutant variants displayed varying levels of unwanted cross-reacting antibodies. The lowest levels of cross-reacting antibodies were observed with STh-L9K/A14T control immunogens, suggesting that it is indeed possible to reduce the risk of eliciting cross-reacting antibodies by mutation. However, mutant-specific antibodies were observed for most double mutant immunogens, demonstrating the delicate balancing act between disrupting cross-reacting epitopes, keeping protective ones, and avoiding the formation of neoepitopes.