Production and evaluation of virus-like particles displaying immunogenic epitopes of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV)
Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is the most significant infectious disease currently affecting the swine industry worldwide. Several inactivated and modified live vaccines (MLV) have been developed to curb PRRSV infections. However, the efficacy and safety of these vaccines are unsatisfactory, and hence, there is a strong demand for the development of new PRRS universal vaccines. Virus-like particle (VLP)-based vaccines are gaining increasing acceptance compared to subunit vaccines, as they present the antigens in a more veritable conformation and are readily recognized by the immune system. Hepatitis B virus core antigen (HBcAg) has been successfully used as a carrier for more than 100 viral sequences. In this study, hybrid HBcAg VLPs were generated by fusion of the conserved protective epitopes of PRRSV and expressed in E. coli. An optimized purification protocol was developed to obtain hybrid HBcAg VLP protein from the inclusion bodies. This hybrid HBcAg VLP protein self-assembled to 23-nm VLPs that were shown to block virus infection of susceptible cells when tested on MARC 145 cells. Together with the safety of non-infectious and non-replicable VLPs and the low cost of production through E. coli fermentation, this hybrid VLP could be a promising vaccine candidate for PRRS.