A bivalent Epstein-Barr virus vaccine induces neutralizing antibodies that block infection and confer immunity in humanized mice

Sci Transl Med. 2022 May 4;14(643):eabf3685. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abf3685. Epub 2022 May 4.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the major cause of infectious mononucleosis and is associated with several human cancers and, more recently, multiple sclerosis. Despite its prevalence and health impact, there are currently no vaccines or treatments. Four viral glycoproteins (gp), gp350 and gH/gL/gp42, mediate entry into the major sites of viral replication, B cells, and epithelial cells. Here, we designed a nanoparticle vaccine displaying these proteins and showed that it elicits potent neutralizing antibodies that protect against infection in vivo. We designed single-chain gH/gL and gH/gL/gp42 proteins that were each fused to bacterial ferritin to form a self-assembling nanoparticle. Structural analysis revealed that single-chain gH/gL and gH/gL/gp42 adopted a similar conformation to the wild-type proteins, and the protein spikes were observed by electron microscopy. Single-chain gH/gL or gH/gL/gp42 nanoparticle vaccines were constructed to ensure product homogeneity needed for clinical development. These vaccines elicited neutralizing antibodies in mice, ferrets, and nonhuman primates that inhibited EBV entry into both B cells and epithelial cells. When mixed with a previously reported gp350 nanoparticle vaccine, gp350D123, no immune competition was observed. To confirm its efficacy in vivo, humanized mice were challenged with EBV after passive transfer of IgG from mice vaccinated with control, gH/gL/gp42+gp350D123, or gH/gL+gp350D123 nanoparticles. Although all control animals were infected, only one mouse in each vaccine group that received immune IgG had detectable transient viremia. Furthermore, no EBV lymphomas were detected in immune animals. This bivalent EBV nanoparticle vaccine represents a promising candidate to prevent EBV infection and EBV-related malignancies in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Ferrets
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Mice
  • Vaccines*
  • Vaccines, Combined


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Combined