Cross protection by inactivated recombinant influenza viruses containing chimeric hemagglutinin conjugates with a conserved neuraminidase or M2 ectodomain epitope.Virology. 2020 11; 550:51-60.V
Influenza virus neuraminidase (NA) contains a universally conserved epitope (NAe, NA222-230). However, no studies have reported vaccines targeting this NA conserved epitope and inducing antibodies recognizing NAe. The extracellular domain of M2 (M2e) is considered as an attractive target for a universal influenza vaccine. We generated recombinant influenza H1N1 viruses expressing conserved epitopes in hemagglutinin (HA) molecules: NAe (NAe-HA) or M2e (M2e-HA) within the HA head domain. Inactivated recombinant NAe-HA and M2e-HA viruses were more effective in inducing IgG antibodies specific for an inserted conserved epitope than live recombinant virus. Recombinant inactivated M2e-HA virus vaccination induced cross protection against H3N2 virus with less weight loss compared to NAe-HA and was more effective in inducing humoral and cellular M2e immune responses. This study provides insight into developing recombinant influenza virus vaccines compatible with current platforms to induce antibody responses to conserved poorly immunogenic epitopes.