Background: Cleavage of the inactive precursor fusion protein (F0) of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at two furin-recognition sites is required for membrane fusion activity, and the cleavage releases the twenty-seven amino acid peptide (p27). However, a recent study shows that p27 was an immunodominant epitope in RSV infected children, indicating that p27 was recognized as an immunogen. In the present study, we investigated the immunogenicity of p27 in an immunocompromised population of adults by measuring serum and mucosal antibody responses to p27 in samples from adult hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients. Methods: We prospectively enrolled a cohort of RSV infected HCT recipients. Serum and nasal-wash samples were obtained within the first week of RSV infection (acute) and 3 to 5 weeks post-infection (convalescent). We quantified the serum and mucosal IgG and IgA anti-p27 antibodies by a RSV/A p27 peptide enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and serum and mucosal p27 like antibodies (P27LA) by a p27 competitive antibody (P27CA) assay. Results: The lower limit of detection for the ELISA and P27CA assays was 0.2 and 50 ng/mL, respectively with no cross-reaction detected with a panel of monoclonal antibodies targeting pre-fusion and post-fusion antigenic sites. P27 antibodies were detected at nanogram concentration in sera and nasal washes in the majority of RSV infected HCT recipients. However, there was no significant difference in the geometric mean antibody concentrations between the acute and convalescent sera (except for serum P27LA), between HCT recipients who shed RSV <14 days and ≥14 days, as well as between RSV/A and RSV/B infected HCT recipients. In addition, approximately 30% of HCT recipients had a 4-fold or greater decrease in mucosal IgG and IgA anti-p27 antibodies during viral clearance. Conclusion: In conclusion, in RSV naturally infected adult HCT recipients, the antibodies against p27 were detectable in both serum and nasal wash samples with higher concentration in serum than that in nasal washes. However, nearly 30% of RSV infected HCT recipients had a significant decrease in their mucosal anti-p27 antibody, suggesting that IgG and IgA anti-p27 antibodies were binding to either free viruses or RSV infected cells containing p27, and that anti-p27 antibodies in the respiratory tract were part of the mucosal antibody response in controlling RSV infection.
Keywords: hematopoietic cell transplant recipients; p27 antibody; respiratory syncytial virus.