Highly conserved M2e and hemagglutinin epitope-based recombinant proteins induce protection against influenza virus infection.Microbes Infect. 2017 12; 19(12):641-647.MI
Highly pathogenic influenza viruses continue to cause serious threat to public health due to their pandemic potential, calling for an urgent need to develop effective, safe, convenient, and universal vaccines against influenza virus infection. In this study, we constructed two recombinant protein vaccines, 2H5M2e-2H7M2e-H5FP-H7FP (hereinafter M2e-FP-1) and 2H5M2e-H5FP-2H7M2e-H7FP (hereinafter M2e-FP-2), by respectively linking highly conserved sequences of two molecules of ectodomain of M2 (M2e) and one molecule of fusion peptide (FP) epitope of hemagglutinin (HA) of H5N1 and H7N9 influenza viruses in different orders. The Escherichia coli-expressed M2e-FP-1 and M2e-FP-2 proteins induced similarly high-titer M2e-FP-specific antibodies in the immunized mice. Importantly, both proteins were able to prevent lethal challenge of heterologous H1N1 influenza virus, with significantly reduced viral titers and alleviated pathological changes in the lungs, as well as increased body weight and complete survivals, in the challenge mice. Taken together, our study demonstrates that highly conserved M2e and FP epitope of HA of H5N1 and H7N9 influenza viruses can be used as important targets for development of safe and economical universal influenza vaccines, and that the position of H7N9 M2e and H5N1 HA epitope sequences in the vaccine components has no significant effects on the immunogenicity and efficacy of M2e-FP-based subunit vaccines.