Background: Virus-like Particles (VLPs) display can be used to increase the immunogenicity of heterologous antigens. Here, we report the use of a bacteriophage MS2-based VLP display platform to develop a monovalent vaccine targeting a broadly neutralizing epitope in the minor capsid protein human papillomavirus (HPV) that provides broad protection from diverse HPV types in a mouse pseudovirus infection model.
Methodology/principal findings: Peptides spanning a previously described cross-neutralizing epitope from HPV type 16 were genetically inserted at the N-terminus of MS2 bacteriophage coat protein. Three of the four recombinant L2-coat proteins assembled into VLPs. L2-VLPs elicited high-titer anti-L2 antibodies in mice, similar to recombinant VLPs that we had previously made in which the L2 peptide was displayed on a surface-exposed loop on VLPs of a related bacteriophage, PP7. Somewhat surprisingly, L2-MS2 VLPs elicited antibodies that were much more broadly cross-reactive with L2 peptides from diverse HPV isolates than L2-PP7 VLPs. Similarly, mice immunized with L2-MS2 VLPs were protected from genital and cutaneous infection by highly diverse HPV pseudovirus types.
Conclusion/significance: We show that peptides can be displayed in a highly immunogenic fashion at the N-terminus of MS2 coat protein VLPs. A VLP-based vaccine targeting HPV L2 elicits broadly cross-reactive and cross-protective antibodies to heterologous HPV types. L2-VLPs could serve as the basis of a broadly protective second generation HPV vaccine.