A continuous peptide epitope reacting with pandemic influenza AH1N1 predicted by bioinformatic approaches.
BACKGROUND The hemagglutinin (HA) of influenza viruses is one of the major targets of the humoral response. The role of serum antibody to HA in the protection against infection has been demonstrated by long-standing observation. In previous studies, we suggested that an epitope vaccine might be a new strategy against the virus. METHODS HA sequences of 491 H3 subtype strains from the influenza sequence database were compared and analyzed. To acquire information on the immunogenicity of the F3 epitope, F3-epitope-specific antibody levels in 81 patient sera infected with influenza virus were tested by ELISA. Based on the theory of the epitope vaccine, we designed an epitope peptide F3 (C-KAYSNCYPYDVPDY-G-KAYSNCYPYDVPDY), which contains the repeated F3 epitope KAYSNCYPYDVPDY (aa92-105) on HA (H3N2). The specificity and the titer of the antibodies induced by the epitope vaccine were determined by ELISA. The neutralizing activities of these anti-F3 antibodies were shown by inhibiting influenza virus infection of MDCK cells. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION Comparison of HA sequences of 491 H3 subtype strains indicates that this epitope is highly conservative. Analysis of the sera from influenza virus-infected patients revealed a very low level of F3 epitope-specific antibodies, suggesting the poor immunogenicity of the F3 epitope on influenza virus. The epitope vaccine based on the F3 epitope induced high levels of F3 epitope-specific antibodies recognizing the epitope peptide F3 (antibody titer in antisera up to 1:25,600). Besides, the antisera could also recognize the natural HA in Western blotting. Interestingly, these antisera induced by the epitope vaccine could inhibit infection of MDCK cells by influenza virus (strain A/Wuhan/359/95) in the neutralization assay. These results suggest that the epitope vaccine can intensively increase the immunogenicity of neutralizing epitopes and may provide a new way to develop an effective vaccine against influenza virus.