Background: Factor H (fH) binding protein (fHbp) is part of vaccines developed for prevention of meningococcal serogroup B disease. More than 610 fHbp amino acid sequence variants have been identified, which can be classified into 2 subfamilies. The extent of cross-protection within a subfamily has been difficult to assess because of strain variation in fHbp expression.
Methods: Using isogenic mutant strains, we compared cross-protective serum antibody responses of mice immunized with 7 divergent fHbp variants in subfamily B, including identification numbers (ID) 1 and 55, which were chosen for vaccine development.
Results and conclusions: In the presence of the human complement downregulator fH, the ability of the anti-fHbp antibodies to deposit sufficient complement C3b on the bacterial surface to elicit bactericidal activity required inhibition of binding of fH by the anti-fHbp antibodies. With less bound fH, the bacteria became more susceptible to complement-mediated bactericidal activity. Among the different fHbp sequence variants, those more central in a phylogenic network than ID 1 or 55 elicited anti-fHbp antibodies with broader inhibition of fH binding and broader bactericidal activity. Thus, the more central variants show promise of extending protection to strains with divergent fHbp sequences that are covered poorly by fHbp variants in clinical development.
Keywords: LP2086; Neisseria meningitidis; bactericidal antibody; complement activation; fHbp; phylogeny; vaccine.