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      A VLP Library of C-Terminally Truncated Hepatitis B Core Proteins: Correlation of RNA Encapsidation with a Th1/Th2 Switch in the Immune Responses of Mice

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          An efficient pBR327- and Ptrp-based E. coli expression system was used to generate a large-scale library of virus like particles (VLP) formed by recombinant hepatitis B virus (HBV) core (HBc) protein derivatives. To construct the library, the gene of HBc protein of the genotype D/subtype ayw2 virus was gradually truncated from the 3`-end and twenty-two HBc variants (with truncation up to 139 aa) were expressed at high levels. The proteins were purified by salt precipitation and gel filtration. Background RNA binding was observed for VLPs formed by HBc1-149, which lacked all C-terminal Arg blocks, and the addition of three Arg residues (HBc1-152) only slightly increased RNA binding. The presence of two Arg blocks (proteins HBc1-162 and HBc1-163) resulted in approximately half of the typical level of RNA binding, and the presence of three blocks (protein HBc1-171) led to approximately 85% of the typical level of binding. Only a small increase in the level of RNA binding was found for the HBc1-175 VLPs, which contained all four Arg blocks but lacked the last 8 aa of the full-length HBc protein. VLPs containing high levels of RNA had higher antigenicity according to an ELISA with anti-HBc mAbs than the VLPs formed by HBc variants without C-terminal Arg blocks and lacking RNA. The results indicate that the VLPs were stabilised by nucleic acids. The immunogenicity in BALB/c mice was comparable for VLPs formed by different HBc proteins, but a clear switch from a Th1 response to a Th2 response occurred after the loss of encapsidated RNA. We did not observe significant differences in lymphocyte proliferation in vitro for the tested VLP variants; however, the loss of RNA encapsidation correlated with a decreased level of IFN-γ induction, which is a measure of the potential CTL activity of immunogens.

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          The crystal structure of the human hepatitis B virus capsid.

          Hepatitis B is a small enveloped DNA virus that poses a major hazard to human health. The crystal structure of the T = 4 capsid has been solved at 3.3 A resolution, revealing a largely helical protein fold that is unusual for icosahedral viruses. The monomer fold is stabilized by a hydrophobic core that is highly conserved among human viral variants. Association of two amphipathic alpha-helical hairpins results in formation of a dimer with a four-helix bundle as the major central feature. The capsid is assembled from dimers via interactions involving a highly conserved region near the C terminus of the truncated protein used for crystallization. The major immunodominant region lies at the tips of the alpha-helical hairpins that form spikes on the capsid surface.
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            Three-dimensional structure of hepatitis B virus core particles determined by electron cryomicroscopy.

            Human hepatitis B virus core protein expressed in E. coli assembles into two sizes of particle. We have determined their three-dimensional structures by electron cryomicroscopy and image processing. The large and small particles correspond to triangulation number T = 4 and T = 3 dimer clustered packings, containing 240 and 180 protein subunits, respectively. The local packing of subunits is very similar in the two sizes of particle and shows holes or channels through the shell. The native viral core particle packages RNA and is active in reverse transcription to DNA. The holes we observe may provide access for the necessary small molecules. Shells assembled from the intact core protein contain additional material, probably RNA, which appears as an icosahedrally ordered inner shell in the three-dimensional map.
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              Construction and Characterization of Virus-Like Particles: A Review

              Over the last three decades, virus-like particles (VLPs) have evolved to become a widely accepted technology, especially in the field of vaccinology. In fact, some VLP-based vaccines are currently used as commercial medical products, and other VLP-based products are at different stages of clinical study. Several remarkable advantages have been achieved in the development of VLPs as gene therapy tools and new nanomaterials. The analysis of published data reveals that at least 110 VLPs have been constructed from viruses belonging to 35 different families. This review therefore discusses the main principles in the cloning of viral structural genes, the relevant host systems and the purification procedures that have been developed. In addition, the methods that are used to characterize the structural integrity, stability, and components, including the encapsidated nucleic acids, of newly synthesized VLPs are analyzed. Moreover, some of the modifications that are required to construct VLP-based carriers of viral origin with defined properties are discussed, and examples are provided. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12033-012-9598-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                23 September 2013
                : 8
                : 9
                Protein Engineering Department, Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Riga, Latvia
                Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: I. Sominskaya PP DS. Performed the experiments: I. Sominskaya DS IB MM IB IA I. Stahovska DD VO. Analyzed the data: IP IB JJ. Wrote the manuscript: I. Sominskaya IP AD PP.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                This work was supported by grants ERAF Nr. (2010/0224/2DP/ and 2010/0211/2DP/ The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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