Design and immunological properties of topographic immunogenic determinants of a protein antigen (LDH-C4) as vaccines

Pravin T.P. Kaumaya*, Anne M. VanBuskirk, Erwin Goldberg, Susan K. Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Antibodies elicited by immunization with short peptides containing antigenic determinants have been shown, in general, to bind with greatly reduced affinity to the corresponding region in the native proteins. Thus, contiguous linear peptides have not proven to be effective immunogens in generating high affinity neutralizing or protective antibodies and consequently appear to be poor prospects for vaccines. The molecular basis for such reduced reactivity is clear from the crystal structure determination of antibody Fabs bound to protein antigens, which showed the complementarity between interfaces to be lock-and-key-like and extending over a large area (750 Å2) involving discontinuous segments of the polypeptide chain. Thus, small pertubations in the secondary and tertiary structure of the antigen have profound effects on the fit of the antigen and its corresponding antibody. Because short peptides are unlikely to assume any particular conformation in solution, the fit is likely to be poor. New strategies are therefore required to produce conformationally stable peptides that mimic the critical structural features of the protein antigenic site. Here we show that a putative topographic determinant of the testis-specific isozyme of lactate dehydrogenase C4 (LDH-C4), designed and synthesized to adopt a well defined α-helical secondary and tertiary structure (four-helix bundle motif) in aqueous solutions, is highly immunogenic in both rabbits and mice, inducing IgG antibodies that bind to native LDH-C4. This engineered conformational 40-residue peptide is considerably more effective in inducing antibodies, as compared with the corresponding linear peptide. The antibody response is obtained without coupling the peptide to a carrier protein, suggesting that the peptide contains a T-cell antigenic determinant. The strategy described here to produce a conformationally stable peptide that mimics the native structure may have general applications in vaccine design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6338-6346
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 25 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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