Objective: To predict and identify B-cell linear epitopes of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg).
Methods: The B-cell linear epitopes of HBeAg were predicted using the software provided by NCBI Database and Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) and synthesized by a solid-phase method followed by conjugation with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH). The KLH conjugates were used for immunization of New Zealand white rabbits, and the immune response of the rabbits was monitored by direct ELISA using a bovine serum albumin conjugate of the predicted epitopes. RESULTS Four new B-cell linear epitopes of HBeAg were identified, namely (1)MDIDPYKEFG(10), (37)LYREALESPEHCSP(50), (74)SNLEDPAS(81) and (127)RTPPAYRPPNAPIL(140). The rabbits immunized with the KLH conjugate showed an antibody titer over 1:512 000. The antisera of B-cell linear epitopes collected could specifically react with HBeAg as shown by ELISA.
Conclusion: Four B-cell linear epitopes of HBeAg have been confirmed using bioinformatics methods, which provides new evidence for further functional studies of HBeAg in hepatitis B.