After immunization with measles virus (MV) several monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were obtained, which reacted with peptides corresponding to the amino acids 361–410 of the haemagglutinin protein (MV-H). Three of these MAbs (BH6, BH21 and BH216) inhibited haemagglutination, neutralized MV and protected animals from a lethal challenge of rodent-adapted neurotropic MV. These MAbs reacted with the 15-mer peptides H381 and H386 defining their overlapping region 386–395 as a sequential neutralizing and protective epitope, which can be imitated by a short peptide. H381 and H386 share two Cys residues (CKGKIQALCENPEWA) and for optimal MAb binding of peptide (or MV) disulphide bonds were required in addition to a linear C-terminal extension. Other MAbs bound to peptides C- (BH147, BH195) and N-terminally (BH168, BH171) adjacent to the loop but did not neutralize or protect. When sera from measles patients or from women of child-bearing age were tested with the peptides corresponding to this haemagglutinating and neutralizing epitope (HNE), none of the sera recognized the 15-mer peptides of this region, while some reactivity was found to 30-mers homologous to different wild-type mutants. Its lack of recognition by maternal antibodies and its high degree of conservation would make the HNE loop an attractive candidate to include into a subunit vaccine, which could be administered during early childhood, independent of immune status.


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