We performed epitope mapping studies on the major surface glycoprotein (GP) of Ebola virus (EBOV) using Chemically Linked Peptides on Scaffolds (CLIPS), which form linear and potential conformational epitopes. This method identified monoclonal antibody epitopes and predicted additional epitopes recognized by antibodies in polyclonal sera from animals experimentally vaccinated against or infected with EBOV. Using the information obtained along with structural modeling to predict epitope accessibility, we then constructed 2 DNA vaccines encoding immunodominant and subdominant epitopes predicted to be accessible on EBOV GP. Although a construct designed to produce a membrane-bound oligopeptide was poorly immunogenic, a construct generating a secreted oligopeptide elicited strong antibody responses in mice. When this construct was administered as a boost to a DNA vaccine expressing the complete EBOV GP gene, the resultant antibody response was focused largely toward the less immunodominant epitopes in the oligopeptide. Taken together, the results of this work suggest a utility for this method for immune focusing of antibody responses elicited by vaccination.
Keywords: DNA vaccine; Ebola virus; antibody; epitope mapping; filovirus; focusing; mice.