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Identification of epitopes on the Dengue virus type 4 envelope glycoprotein involved in neutralisation by antibodies

Howard, Christopher Bruce (2006) Identification of epitopes on the Dengue virus type 4 envelope glycoprotein involved in neutralisation by antibodies. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Dengue virus (DENV) is the causative agent of dengue fever (DF), the most prevalent arthropod-borne viral disease in the world and therefore is considered an emerging global health threat. The four DENV serotypes (DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4) that infect humans are distinguished from one another by unique antigenic determinants (epitopes) on the DENV envelope (E) protein. The E protein is the primary antigenic site of the DENV and is responsible for inducing neutralising antibody (Ab) and cell mediated immune response in DENV infected hosts. The DENV E protein also mediates attachment of virions to host cell receptors and entry of virions into host cells by membrane fusion.

The study of epitopes on DENV E protein is necessary for understanding viral function and for the design of unique polyvalent vaccines capable of inducing a neutralising antibody response against each DENV serotype. Reverse genetics using infectious cDNA clones has enabled the construction of functional intertypic DENV, where the E protein of one DENV serotype is put in the genetic background of a different DENV serotype. In addition, observations from our laboratory indicate that chimeric E proteins, consisting of E protein structural domains from different DENV serotypes can fold into functional proteins. This suggests that there is potential to engineer viruses with intertypic DENV E proteins as potential DENV vaccine candidates, which is the long term goal of studies within our research group. However, if a chimeric E protein was to be constructed containing epitopes involved in antibody mediated neutralisation of each DENV serotype, then knowledge of the location of these epitopes on the E protein of each DENV serotype would be essential.

Prior to this study, monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) had been used to identify epitopes involved in antibody mediated neutralisation on the E protein of all DENV serotypes, except DENV-4. The primary objective of this study was to identify epitopes on the DENV-4 E protein involved in neutralisation by antibodies. In order to achieve this objective, a panel of 14 MAbs was generated against DENV-4 in BALB/c mice and characterised using various serological and functional assays.

The identification of DENV-4 specific neutralising MAbs in the panel was essential for subsequent experiments aimed at determining antigenic domains, structural domains or specific epitopes (peptides or amino acids) involved in the neutralisation of DENV-4.

The majority of MAbs (11/14) generated against DENV-4 recognised the E protein. The remaining three MAbs reacted with the non-structural (NS) 1 protein. The majority of MAbs against the E protein were DENV or Flavivirus group reactive, but four MAbs were DENV-4 specific. All MAbs against the E protein recognised conformationally dependent epitopes and were able to capture DENV-4 in an enzyme linked immuno-adsorbent assay (ELISA).

Eighty percent (9/11) of the anti-E MAbs produced for this study neutralised infection of cells by DENV-4 in vitro. Three of the neutralising MAbs (F1G2, 18F5 and 13H8) were DENV-4 specific and also demonstrated the strongest neutralisation activity of the panel, reducing DENV-4 infectivity by 100-1000 fold. The amount of virus neutralised by the MAbs was not related to the avidity of the MAbs. The DENV-4 specific MAbs F1G2, 18F5 and 13H8 were used to identify epitopes involved in neutralisation of DENV-4.

The MAbs that effectively captured DENV-4 were used in competitive binding assays (CBAs) to determine spatial relationships between epitopes and therefore define antigenic domains on the DENV-4 E protein. The CBAs indicated that the epitopes recognised by the panel of MAbs segregated into two distinct domains (D4E1 and D4E2) and both contained epitopes involved in neutralisation. CBAs incorporating human serum from DENV-4 infected patients suggested that the MAbs recognised the same, or spatially related, epitopes in domain D4E2 as antibodies from humans who had experienced natural dengue infections, indicating the clinical relevance of such epitopes for the development of DENV vaccines. The reactivity of the capture MAbs with low pH treated DENV-4 was also evaluated in an attempt to identify epitopes that might be more accessible during low pH-mediated virus fusion. Only one of the MAbs (13H8) recognised an acid resistant epitope.

Initial attempts to identify epitopes on the DENV-4 E protein involved in neutralisation followed the traditional epitope mapping approach of selecting subpopulations of DENV-4 which escaped neutralisation by MAbs. These attempts were unsuccessful so a variety of strategies for mapping epitopes were used including DENV-4 variant analysis and site directed mutagenesis of the DENV-4 E protein, MAb screening of chimeric DENV-3/4 E proteins and MAb screening of a bacterial peptide display library.

DENV-4 variants including DENV-4 isolates from different geographical locations or chemically mutagenised DENV-4 were screened with neutralising MAbs to identify neutralisation escape mutant (n.e.m.) viruses. Site directed mutagenesis of the DENV-4 E protein confirmed whether amino acid changes identified in DENV-4 n.e.m.s were essential for the binding of neutralising MAbs to an epitope.

The MAb screening of DENV-4 variants identified n.e.m.s with amino acid changes at residues E95, E96, E156, E157, E203, E329 and E402 of the DENV-4 E protein. Site directed mutagenesis of the DENV-4 E protein identified two epitopes recognised by the DENV-4 specific neutralising MAbs F1G2 and 18F5 at specific amino acid residues within domains II and III of the DENV-4 E protein. No specific epitopes were identified for the MAb 13H8; however this MAb did recognise domain I and II of the DENV-4 E protein, when screened against DENV-3/4 chimeric DENV E proteins.

The first epitope, which was recognised by the MAb F1G2, contained residue E95 which was located in domain II of the DENV-4 E protein. The aspartate (Asp) to alanine (Ala) change at E95 prevented the binding of F1G2 to the DENV-4 E protein. The binding of F1G2 to the E95 residue was confirmed using the pFlitrX bacterial peptide display library, which demonstrated binding of F1G2 to a peptide homologous with residues E99-E104. No peptides recognised by 13H8 and 18F5 were identified by this method. The MAb F1G2 also bound to the domain III region (E300-E495) of the DENV-4 E protein when screened against DENV-3/4 chimeric DENV E proteins. This implied that F1G2 may be recognising a discontinuous epitope consisting of domains II and III.

The second epitope, which was recognised by MAb 18F5, contained residue E329 which was located in domain III of the DENV-4 E protein. The alanine (Ala) to threonine (Thr) change at E329 prevented the binding of 18F5 to the DENV-4 E protein. MAb 18F5 also bound to the domain III region (E300-E495) of the DENV-4 E protein when screened against DENV-3/4 chimeric E proteins, thus confirming the E329 epitope.

The potential mechanisms by which the DENV-4 specific MAbs neutralise virus infection were evaluated by the virus overlay protein binding assay (VOPBA). The binding of MAb 18F5 to a domain III (E329) epitope of the DENV-4 E protein and the binding of MAb F1G2 to domain II (E95, E99-E104) and domain III epitopes (chimeric E protein) of the DENV-4 E protein, prevented the attachment of DENV-4 to a 40 kDa C6/36 cell protein. In contrast the binding of MAb 13H8 to domains I and II of the DENV-4 E protein did not prevent attachment of DENV-4 to the same protein.

This was preliminary evidence that the binding of domain III epitopes by the MAbs F1G2 and 18F5 may be important in preventing virus attachment. The binding of MAb 13H8 to domains I and II, and the ability of this MAb to recognise DENV-4 treated at low pH, suggested that MAb 13H8 may block epitopes exposed at low pH that are required for low pH mediated virus fusion to host cell membranes.

Overall, the different methods used in this study identified epitopes involved in the neutralisation of DENV-4. The distribution of epitopes involved in neutralisation throughout the DENV-4 E protein were similar to the distribution of epitopes involved in neutralisation on the DENV-1, 2 and 3 E proteins. This suggested that it might be possible to elicit neutralising antibodies against multiple DENV serotypes using chimeric E-proteins derived from two or more DENV serotypes and therefore, facilitate the design of novel tetravalent DENV vaccines.

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ID Code: 16401
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Aaskov, John& Walsh, Terence
Keywords: Dengue virus, envelope protein, neutralisation, monoclonal antibody, epitope, neutralisation escape mutant, chimeric E protein, site directed mutagenesis, peptide display, tetravalent vaccine
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Life Sciences
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Christopher Bruce Howard
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 14:02
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2011 05:47

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