Evaluation of the novel P particle vaccine candidate against human norovirus using the gnotobiotic pig challenge model

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Virginia Tech


Noroviruses (NoVs) are a cause of nonbacterial acute gastroenteritis affecting all ages. NoV infections result in over 200,000 pediatric deaths in developing countries annually. Vaccine development has been hindered by the lack of cell culture systems and small animal models; thus, vaccine development has relied upon recombinant VP1 capsid proteins, such as virus-like particles (VLPs) and P particles. P particles are a novel vaccine candidate derived from expression of the VP1 protruding (P) domain, while VLPs require expression of the full-length VP1. My studies utilize a gnotobiotic (Gn) pig model of human NoV infection and diarrhea to evaluate the protective efficacy and T cell responses induced by P particles and to compare them with prior NoV infection (NoVPO) and VLPs. Gn pigs received 100 µg of P particles (LoPP) or VLPs, 250 µg P particles (HiPP), or adjuvants only intranasally at post-inoculation day (PID) 0, 10, and 21. Monophosphoryl lipid A and chitosan were used as mucosal adjuvants. At PID 28, a subset of pigs were orally challenged with 10 median infectious doses (ID50) NoV. NoVPO, LoPP, HiPP, and VLPs provided partial protection from diarrhea (83%, 47%, 60%, and 60% protection rates, respectively). Only NoVPO and HiPP provided protection from shedding (49% and 60% protection rates, respectively) and also reduced the number of CD25- regulatory T cells (Tregs) in duodenum following challenge. NoV primary infection induced an overall pro-Treg and low, transient Th1 response. LoPP induced stronger overall T cell responses compared to VLPs, including activated CD4+ T cells and duodenal CD8+IFN-γ+ T cells, suggesting that P particles are more immunogenic than VLPs. I also evaluated the effects of simvastatin, a cholesterol-reducing drug that increases NoV infectivity, on P particle vaccine efficacy. Simvastatin abolished P particle-induced protection and significantly increased diarrhea severity. Simvastatin reduced total numbers of duodenal mononuclear cells, IFN-γ+ T cells pre-challenge, and Tregs post-challenge, indicating that simvastatin impairs development of immune system and immune responses. Findings from these studies elucidate potential mechanisms behind P particle-induced immunity and reveal the negative effects of simvastatin on NoV-induced protective immunity. The knowledge will facilitate the development of effective NoV vaccines.



norovirus, P particle, gnotobiotic pigs, t cells, simvastatin