Recombinant subunit vaccines should contain minimal non-pathogen motifs to reduce potential off-target reactivity. We recently developed a vaccine antigen against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which comprised the fusion (F) glycoprotein stabilized in its pre-fusion trimeric conformation by “DS-Cav1” mutations and by an appended C-terminal trimerization motif or “foldon” from T4-bacteriophage fibritin. Here we investigate the creation of a cyste- ine zipper to allow for the removal of the phage foldon, while maintaining the immunogenic- ity of the parent DS-Cav1+foldon antigen. Constructs without foldon yielded RSV F monomers, and enzymatic removal of the phage foldon from pre-fusion F trimers resulted in their dissociation into monomers. Because the native C terminus of the pre-fusion RSV F ectodomain encompasses a viral trimeric coiled-coil, we explored whether introduction of cysteine residues capable of forming inter-protomer disulfides might allow for stable trimers. Structural modeling indicated the introduced cysteines to form disulfide “rings”, with each ring comprising a different set of inward facing residues of the coiled-coil. Three sets of rings could be placed within the native RSV F coiled-coil, and additional rings could be added by duplicating portions of the coiled-coil. High levels of neutralizing activity in mice, equivalent to that of the parent DS-Cav1+foldon antigen, were elicited by a 4-ring stabilized RSV F trimer with no foldon. Structure-based alteration of a viral coiled-coil to create a cys- teine zipper thus allows a phage trimerization motif to be removed from a candidate vaccine antigen.
Stewart-Jones, Guillaume B. E.; Thomas, Paul V.; Chen, Man; Druz, Aliaksandr; Joyce, Gordon M.; Kong, Wing-Pui; Sastry, Mallika; Soto, Conque; Yang, Yongping; Zhang, Baoshan; Chen, Lei; Chuang, Gwo-Yu; Georgiev, Ivelin S.; and McLellan, Jason S., "A Cysteine Zipper Stabilizes a Pre-Fusion F Glycoprotein Vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus" (2015). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 2491.