Hepatitis B core-based virus-like particles to present heterologous epitopes

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2013 Feb;12(2):183-98. doi: 10.1586/erv.12.150.


Since the first effort to recombinantly express the hepatitis B core protein (HBc) in bacteria, the remarkable virion-like structure has fuelled interest in unraveling the structural and antigenic properties of this protein. Initial studies proved HBc virus-like particles to possess strong immunogenic properties, which can be conveyed to linked antigens. More than 35 years later, numerous studies have been performed using HBc as a carrier protein for antigens derived from over a dozen different pathogens and diseases. In this review, the authors highlight the intriguing features of HBc as carrier and antigen, illustrated by some examples and experimental results that underscore the value of HBc as an antigen-presenting platform. Two of these HBc fusions, targeting influenza A and malaria, have even progressed into clinical testing. In the future, the HBc-based virus-like particles platform will probably continue to be used for the display of poorly immunogenic antigens, mainly because virus-like particle formation by HBc capsomers is compatible with nearly any available recombinant gene expression system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / immunology*
  • Epitopes / genetics
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens / genetics
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens / immunology*
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / genetics
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Malaria Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Malaria Vaccines / genetics
  • Malaria Vaccines / immunology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle / genetics
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle / immunology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Epitopes
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Malaria Vaccines
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle