Reverse vaccinology 2.0 (RV 2.0), in which the cloning and recombinant expression of antigen-specific antibodies is followed by determination of their functional activity, is a valuable approach that can unravel novel vaccine antigens, or reinforce the vaccine candidacy of already known antigens. Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) remains a serious source of concern even with the availability of vaccines. Incomplete strain coverage is a limitation of current vaccines, hence efforts to identify candidate antigens that will compose supplementary or replacement vaccines are necessitated. In this proof-of-principle study, we sought to assess the applicability of RV 2.0 to anti-meningococcal vaccine antigen discovery. Antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) obtained from a patient convalescing from serogroup B (MenB) IMD, were isolated and sorted singly using FACS. The specificity and functionality of each antibody produced by individual ASCs were assessed in ELISA and bactericidal assays, respectively. Eight cross-reactive anti-meningococcal antibodies were successfully cloned; three of these mediated complement-dependent killing of antigenically-heterologous MenB strains. Western blot data shows binding of these three bactericidal antibodies to a ∼35 kDa antigen. None of the three bactericidal antibodies were reactive with a target in current vaccine formulations strongly suggesting that the ∼35 kDa antigen does not compose available vaccines. Unequivocal determination of the identity of the ∼35 kDa antigen is ongoing. Given the need for antigens that would compose improved or novel anti-meningococcal vaccines, this study shows that the RV 2.0 approach has the potential to be a powerful tool in the identification of functionally-immunogenic anti-meningococcal antigens.

  • 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 work is properly cited.

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