Immunogenic properties of calicivirus-like particles as vaccine vectors

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


New subunit vaccines are getting a foothold in veterinary vaccinology and virus-like particles (VLPs) are one of the most appealing approaches opening up frontiers in animal vaccines. VLPs are robust protein cages in the nanometer range exhibiting welldefined geometry and remarkable uniformity that mimic the overall structure of the native virions. VLPs have an important advantage in terms of safety; indeed, lacking the genome of the virus avoid any of the risks associated with virus replication, reversion, recombination or re-assortment. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) capsid protein is able to form RHDV-VLPs and these particles showed a strong immunogenicity and protected the natural host after a lethal challenge. Additionally, previous studies described the possibility to use RHDV-VLPs as platform for the insertion of foreign epitopes or for DNA packaging. Nowadays, one study has shown the possibility to use RHDV-VLPs as carrier for improving cancer immunotherapies but no studies have investigated the possibility to use RHDV-VLPs as vaccine vectors carrying epitopes corresponding to viral animal diseases. This thesis is aimed to study the potential immunogenicity of RHDV-VLPs as epitope carriers for viral disease in different animal models. In the first two studies, the immunogenicity of chimeric RHDV-VLPs was investigated in a murine system in vitro and in vivo. Results from these studies demonstrated that the inserted epitope was processed and presented in an MHC-I context by dendritic cells (DCs) and that the different sites of insertion of the epitope influenced the immunogenicity of the VLPs. Chimeric RHDV-VLPs were able to protect mice from a viral challenge. Also, the route of antigen delivery influenced the immunogenicity of the particles. The third study confirmed the initial results but this time in in vitro experiments using porcine cells. Lastly, chimeric RHDV-VLPs were studied as immunogens in pigs. The results showed that the delivery route and adjuvant influenced immune responses after chimeric RHDV-VLP immunization and more importantly that pigs exhibited very good cellular and humoral immune responses against not only RHDV-VLPs but also against the antigenic epitope. Further studies have to be performed to prove protection in pigs. In conclusion, in this thesis we demonstrated the potential of RHDV-VLPs as immunogens in two different animal systems.
Date of Award2 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMaria Montoya (Director) & Joaquim Segales Coma (Tutor)


  • Vaccine
  • Virus-like particles
  • Veterinary immunology

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