Design and Testing for a Nontagged F1-V Fusion Protein as Vaccine Antigen Against Bubonic and Pneumonic Plague

Biotechnol Prog. Sep-Oct 2005;21(5):1490-510. doi: 10.1021/bp050098r.


A two-component recombinant fusion protein antigen was re-engineered and tested as a medical counter measure against the possible biological threat of aerosolized Yersinia pestis. The active component of the proposed subunit vaccine combines the F1 capsular protein and V virulence antigen of Y. pestis and improves upon the design of an earlier histidine-tagged fusion protein. In the current study, different production strains were screened for suitable expression and a purification process was optimized to isolate an F1-V fusion protein absent extraneous coding sequences. Soluble F1-V protein was isolated to 99% purity by sequential liquid chromatography including capture and refolding of urea-denatured protein via anion exchange, followed by hydrophobic interaction, concentration, and then transfer into buffered saline for direct use after frozen storage. Protein identity and primary structure were verified by mass spectrometry and Edman sequencing, confirming a purified product of 477 amino acids and removal of the N-terminal methionine. Purity, quality, and higher-order structure were compared between lots using RP-HPLC, intrinsic fluorescence, CD spectroscopy, and multi-angle light scattering spectroscopy, all of which indicated a consistent and properly folded product. As formulated with aluminum hydroxide adjuvant and administered in a single subcutaneous dose, this new F1-V protein also protected mice from wild-type and non-encapsulated Y. pestis challenge strains, modeling prophylaxis against pneumonic and bubonic plague. These findings confirm that the fusion protein architecture provides superior protection over the former licensed product, establish a foundation from which to create a robust production process, and set forth assays for the development of F1-V as the active pharmaceutical ingredient of the next plague vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / administration & dosage*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Plague / microbiology*
  • Plague / prevention & control*
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccines, Subunit / administration & dosage*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / administration & dosage
  • Yersinia pestis / cytology
  • Yersinia pestis / drug effects*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • LcrV protein, Yersinia
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vaccines, Subunit
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • caf1 protein, Yersinia pestis