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Construction, characterization, and immunization of nanoparticles that display a diverse array of influenza HA trimers

By Alexander A. Cohen, Zhi Yang, Priyanthi N.P. Gnanapragasam, Susan Ou, Kim-Marie A. Dam, Haoqing Wang, Pamela Bjorkman

Posted 19 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.18.911388

Current influenza vaccines do not elicit broadly protective immune responses against multiple strains. New strategies to focus the humoral immune response to conserved regions on influenza antigens are therefore required for recognition by broadly neutralizing antibodies. It has been suggested that B-cells with receptors that recognize conserved epitopes would be preferentially stimulated through avidity effects by mosaic particles presenting multiple forms of a variable antigen. We adapted SpyCatcher-based platforms, AP205 virus-like particles (VLPs) and mi3 nanoparticles (NPs), to covalently co-display SpyTagged hemagglutinin (HA) trimers from group 1 and group 2 influenza A strains. Here we show successful homotypic and heterotypic conjugation of up to 8 different HA trimers to both VLPs and NPs. We characterized the HA-VLPs and HA-NPs by cryo-electron tomography to derive the average number of conjugated HAs and their separation distances on particles, and compared immunizations of mosaic and homotypic particles in wild-type mice. Both types of HA particles elicited strong antibody responses, but the mosaic particles did not consistently elicit broader immune responses than mixtures of homotypic particles. We conclude that covalent attachment of HAs from currently-circulating influenza strains represents a viable alternative to current annual influenza vaccine strategies, but in the absence of further modifications, is unlikely to represent a method for making a universal influenza vaccine. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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