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Title: Investigation of the potential of PorA and FetA as meningococcal vaccine components
Author: Sanders, Holly
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 0822
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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In the search for a vaccine providing comprehensive protection against meningococcal disease, one vaccine currently under development contains the immunogenic proteins PorA and FetA in meningococcal outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). To achieve high levels of coverage against disease-causing isolates, the antigenic variability of these proteins could be overcome using knowledge of meningococcal epidemiology and population structure. In this study, the possible implications of variable expression levels of PorA and FetA on vaccine efficacy were investigated. Producing OMVs containing consistent amounts of FetA is difficult due to iron-repressed expression; therefore, meningococcal strains were constructed which constitutively expressed FetA at increased levels for OMV vaccine production and analysis. In mice, OMVs from modified strains induced antibodies against both PorA and FetA. These antibodies acted synergistically in a serum bactericidal assay; however, antibodies against FetA were weakly bactericidal alone. The potential to increase levels of PorA- and FetA-specific bactericidal antibodies with a prime-boost strategy, using OMV and protein inoculums, was also tested. While successful for a weakly-immunogenic PorA variant, a similar strategy did not increase bactericidal activity against FetA. Although antibodies against FetA can be induced following OMV immunisation, sufficient antigen expression in target bacteria is also required for bactericidal killing; therefore, the variability and regulation of porA and fetA transcription was investigated in a range of isolates. Despite differences in regulation among clonal complexes, variable expression is unlikely to be an issue for vaccine coverage. In particular, regulation of fetA by iron is reduced in many isolates due to a deletion in the sequence bound by the regulatory protein, Fur. Therefore, a vaccine targeting PorA and FetA may provide high levels of protection against meningococcal disease; however, an alternative formulation or immunisation strategy is required to improve coverage against FetA.
Supervisor: Maiden, Martin C. J. ; Feavers, Ian M. Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biology ; Disease (zoology) ; Infectious diseases ; Neisseria meningitidis ; meningococcus ; vaccine