Potent immunogenicity and efficacy of a universal influenza vaccine candidate comprising a recombinant fusion protein linking influenza M2e to the TLR5 ligand flagellin

Vaccine. 2008 Jan 10;26(2):201-14. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.10.062. Epub 2007 Nov 20.


The recognition of specific pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) by members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) family is critical for the activation of the adaptive immune response. Thus, incorporation of PAMPs into vaccines should result in more potent, protective antigen-specific responses in the absence of adjuvants or complex formulations. Here we describe an influenza A vaccine that is refractory to the genetic instability of hemagglutinin and neuraminidase and includes a trigger of the innate immune response to enhance immunogenicity and efficacy. A recombinant protein comprising the TLR5 ligand flagellin fused to four tandem copies of the ectodomain of the conserved influenza matrix protein M2 (M2e) was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity. This protein, STF2.4xM2e, retained TLR5 activity and displayed the protective epitope of M2e defined by a monoclonal antibody, 14C2. Mice immunized with STF2.4xM2e in aqueous buffer, without adjuvants or other formulation additives, developed potent M2e-specific antibody responses that were quantitatively and qualitatively superior to those observed with M2e peptide delivered in alum. The antibody response was dependent on the physical linkage of the antigen to flagellin and recognized the epitope defined by monoclonal antibody 14C2, which has been shown to protect mice from challenge with influenza A virus. Moreover, immunization with STF2.4xM2e at a dose of 0.3 microg per mouse protected mice from a lethal challenge with influenza A virus, and significantly reduced weight loss and clinical symptoms. These data demonstrate that the linkage of specific TLR ligand with influenza M2e yields a vaccine candidate that offers significant promise for widespread protection against multiple influenza A virus strains.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antigens, Bacterial / genetics
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / genetics
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Flagellin / genetics
  • Flagellin / immunology*
  • Influenza A virus / genetics
  • Influenza Vaccines / genetics
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / physiopathology
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / prevention & control*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / immunology*
  • Weight Loss


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epitopes
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • M2 protein, Influenza A virus
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Flagellin