GII.4 Norovirus Capsid with ABH Histo-Blood Group Antigens
Gabriel I. Parra, Eugenio J. Abente, Carlos Sandoval-Jaime, Stanislav V. Sosnovtsev, Karin Bok, and Kim Y. Green
Caliciviruses Section, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Noroviruses are major etiological agents of acute viral gastroenteritis. In 2002, a GII.4 variant (Farmington Hills cluster) spread
so rapidly in the human population that it predominated worldwide and displaced previous GII.4 strains. We developed and
characterized a panel of six monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) directed against the capsid protein of a Farmington Hills-like GII.4
norovirus strain that was associated with a large hospital outbreak in Maryland in 2004. The six MAbs reacted with high titers
against homologous virus-like particles (VLPs) by enzyme-linked immunoassay but did not react with denatured capsid protein
in immunoblots. The expression and self-assembly of newly developed genogroup I/II chimeric VLPs showed that five MAbs
bound to the GII.4 protruding (P) domain of the capsid protein, while one recognized the GII.4 shell (S) domain.
Cross-competi-tion assays and mutaCross-competi-tional analyses showed evidence for at least three distinct antigenic sites in the P domain and one in the S
domain. MAbs that mapped to the P domain but not the S domain were able to block the interaction of VLPs with ABH
histo-blood group antigens (HBGA), suggesting that multiple antigenic sites of the P domain are involved in HBGA blocking. Further
analysis showed that two MAbs mapped to regions of the capsid that had been associated with the emergence of new GII.4
vari-ants. Taken together, our data map antibody and HBGA carbohydrate binding to proximal regions of the norovirus capsid,
showing that evolutionary pressures on the norovirus capsid protein may affect both antigenic and carbohydrate recognition
oroviruses are major etiological agents of acute viral
gastro-enteritis worldwide and are estimated to be responsible for
approximately 200,000 deaths in children under 5 years of age
each year, mainly in the developing world (
). Noroviruses are
often associated with outbreaks in closed settings, such as schools,
hospitals, hotels, cruise ships, nursing homes, and military
facili-ties, and they are considered the most common cause of
nonbac-terial gastroenteritis outbreaks (
Noroviruses, which belong to the family
a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA genome that is organized
into three open reading frames (ORFs 1 to 3). ORF1 encodes a
polyprotein that is cotranslationally cleaved into the
nonstruc-tural proteins by the viral protease, ORF2 encodes the major
cap-sid protein (VP1), and ORF3 encodes a small basic protein (VP2)
that has been associated with stability of the capsid (
expression of VP1 results in the formation of virus-like particles
(VLPs), which have been shown to be morphologically and
anti-genically similar to native virions (
). X-ray crystallographic
analysis of the capsid revealed a T
3 icosahedral symmetry, with
180 VP1 molecules organized into 90 dimers. Each VP1 monomer
is composed of two domains, the shell (S) and protruding (P)
domains, linked by a flexible hinge. The S domain forms the
in-ternal icosahedral scaffold, from which the P domain projects to
form arch-like structures (
). The P domain can be divided
fur-ther into P1 and P2 subdomains, with P2 being the most exposed
and variable region of VP1 (
). Recent X-ray analyses have
shown that the P2 subdomain interacts with synthetic
carbohy-drates corresponding to various ABH histo-blood group antigens
). Interestingly, the expression of the S domain
alone results in smooth particles with a diameter of approximately
30 nm, while expression of the P domain alone yields particles
with a diameter of approximately 20 nm (
). The P particles
(which can be produced rapidly in bacterial and yeast expression
systems) are antigenically similar to the P domain of intact VLPs
and have been used in structure and function studies to map
spe-cific amino acid residues in the P2 domain that are involved in
carbohydrate interactions (
Noroviruses have been classified into six genogroups (GI to
GVI) and multiple genotypes (
) based on VP1 sequences.
Noroviruses from GI, GII, and GIV have been shown to infect
humans, with GII strains being the most prevalent worldwide
). Since the mid-1990s, noroviruses from genotype GII.4 have
been the most common cause of outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the
United States and Europe (
). It has been reported that
the chronological emergence of new variants (or phylogenetically
related clusters) of GII.4 noroviruses correlated with an increase
in the occurrence of large epidemics throughout the world (
). In 2002, a GII.4 variant designated the Farmington
Hills cluster spread rapidly in the human population and
dis-placed the previous GII.4 strains (
). The mechanisms that
have driven the fitness of this variant have not been established
completely, but a number of mutations in ORF1 and ORF2 have
been detected and studied extensively. Interestingly, this strain
presented a unique amino acid (aa) insertion (Gly394) in the P2
domain that was in close proximity to the HBGA binding site (
and altered the binding of VLPs to synthetic carbohydrates
Studies of human noroviruses have been hampered by the lack
of a cell culture system and small-animal disease models, making
it difficult to assess the neutralization activity of antibodies. It has
Received4 November 2011Accepted13 April 2012
Published ahead of print24 April 2012
Address correspondence to Kim Y. Green, firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2012, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved. doi:10.1128/JVI.06729-11
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been reported that the measurement of antibodies that block the
interaction between VLPs and HBGA carbohydrates might serve
as a surrogate neutralization test (
). Consistent with this, a
correlation was found between the presence of serum
HBGA-blocking antibodies and resistance to infection in adult volunteers
challenged with Norwalk virus (NV) (
). Bok et al. (
norovirus vaccine candidates in the chimpanzee model and found
that chimpanzees vaccinated with Norwalk virus VLPs (GI.1), but
not Hu/NoV/GII.4/MD145-12/1997/US (MD145-12) (GII.4)
VLPs, were protected against reinfection with Norwalk virus. The
protection from infection in the chimpanzee model after
vaccina-tion correlated with the presence of serum antibodies that blocked
the binding of Norwalk VLPs to HBGA carbohydrates (
together, these data suggested that protective epitopes are located
at or near HBGA binding sites on the virion.
Because VLPs are antigenically similar to native virions (
efforts have been made to characterize the binding of monoclonal
antibodies (MAbs) developed after immunization of mice with
VLPs from various norovirus genotypes (
cross-reactive MAbs have been identified, and most of them have
been mapped to the S domain or the C-terminal region of the P1
). It has been reported that
certain MAbs block the interaction of VLPs with cells or synthetic
), and two HBGA-blocking sites were recently
In this study, we developed MAbs against the capsid protein of
a GII.4 strain from the Farmington Hills cluster to explore the
antigenic properties of this genetic cluster. Using competition
as-says and newly developed genogroup I/II chimeric VLPs, we were
able to show that multiple epitopes on the norovirus capsid can be
involved in the blocking of VLP-HBGA interactions. In addition,
further analyses identified HBGA-blocking MAbs that mapped to
a region of the capsid that has been associated with the emergence
of new GII.4 variants.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Expression and purification of VLPs.To express VLPs, the ORF2 and ORF3 genes of norovirus strain Hu/NoV/GII.4/MD2004-3/2004/US (MD2004-3) (29) were amplified by PCR and cloned into a pENTR plas-mid (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) to yield pENTRMD2004-3. Recombina-tion of plasmid DNA with baculovirus DNA was performed using a Bacu-lodirect kit (Invitrogen), and a baculovirus stock was obtained following transfection of the recombination product into Sf9 cells (serum-free adapted Sf9 cells; Invitrogen) as recommended by the manufacturer. The baculovirus stock was used to infect Sf9 suspension cultures for VLP production. Culture medium from baculovirus-infected cells was lay-ered onto a 25% (wt/vol) sucrose cushion and subjected to centrifu-gation in an SW28 rotor at 76,200⫻g for 4 h at 4°C (7,20). The resulting pellets were dissolved in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), pH 7.4, and further purified through a cesium chloride (CsCl) gradient by centrifugation in an SW55 rotor at 218,400⫻gfor 18 h at 15°C. The collected fractions (densities of⬃1.3 g/ml) were dialyzed against PBS, and the protein concentration was determined with a commercial Bradford assay kit (Pierce, Rockford, IL). The presence of VLPs was confirmed by electron microscopy. The expression and purification of VLPs from Hu/NoV/GI.1/Norwalk/1968/US, Hu/NoV/GI.3/Desert-Shield395/1990/US, Hu/NoV/GII.1/Hawaii/1971/US, Hu/NoV/GII.2/ SnowMountain/1976/US, Hu/NoV/GII.3/Toronto24/1991/CA, Hu/NoV/ GIV.1/SaintCloud624/1998/US, Hu/NoV/GII.4/CHDC5191/1974/US, Hu/ NoV/GII.4/CHDC4871/1977/US, Hu/NoV/GII.4/HS-191/2001/US, and Hu/NoV/GII.4/MD145-12/1997/US are described elsewhere (7,14,20,21, 33,34).
Production of MAbs.BALB/c mice were immunized subcutaneously with 100g of MD2004-3 VLPs four times in 2-week intervals. After determination of the serum titers, mice were boosted again intravenously with 100g of MD2004-3 VLPs. Three days later, mice were sacrificed, and spleen cells were isolated and fused with myeloma cells as described previously (31). The reactivity of the single-clone hybridoma superna-tants was tested against MD2004-3 VLPs, and positive cells were collected for further characterization. Animal experiments and MAb production were carried out at Creative Biolabs (Shirley, NY) and conducted under approved protocols at Stony Brook University (IACUC permit 2010-1632). All efforts were made to minimize suffering. The isotype of each antibody was determined with an IOS-2 mouse antibody isotyping kit (Sigma, St. Louis, MO) following the manufacturer’s recommendations. ELISA.The reactivity of each MAb against norovirus VLPs was exam-ined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Briefly, 96-well polyvinyl microtiter plates (Thermo, Milford, MA) were coated with 100 l of purified VLPs at a concentration of 0.5g/ml in PBS, pH 7.4, and incubated overnight at 4°C. Wells incubated with PBS alone were used as a negative control for MAb binding. Wells were washed with PBS contain-ing 0.1% Tween 20 (PBS-T) and blocked with PBS–5% fat-free milk for 1 h at room temperature (RT). Each MAb was used at 5g/ml and ad-sorbed for 2 h at RT. The binding of antibodies to the VLP antigen was detected with horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-conjugated goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin G (1:2,000 dilution; KPL, Gaithersburg, MD) and 2,2= -azino-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS; KPL). The bind-ing of VLPs to the plate was confirmed with guinea pig hyperimmune sera (1:500 dilution) raised against each of the homologous VLPs, except for GII.2 VLPs, for which GII.1 hyperimmune serum was used.
Western blot analyses.The reactivity of each MAb with MD2004-3 VLPs was analyzed by Western blotting. Briefly, 2.5g of VLPs was mixed with Novex 2⫻Tris-glycine-SDS loading buffer (Invitrogen), boiled for 5 min at 95°C, and separated by denaturing polyacrylamide gel electropho-resis (SDS-PAGE). The proteins were electroblotted onto a nitrocellulose membrane by use of an iBlot dry blotting system (Invitrogen). The mem-branes were blocked with PBS–5% fat-free milk for 1 h at RT. Each MAb (1:1,000) was adsorbed for 2 h at RT, and binding was detected with HRP-conjugated goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin G (1:2,000) and Su-perSignal West Pico chemiluminescent substrate (Thermo Scientific, Rockford, IL).
Detection of native MD145-12 proteins in stool samples. Biotinyl-ated MAbs were incubBiotinyl-ated overnight in NeutriAvidin-coBiotinyl-ated plates (Pierce, Rockford, IL), and excess MAbs were washed away with PBS-T–1% bovine serum albumin (BSA). A 10% stool suspension of MD145-12 was incubated for 2 h, and the binding of captured native proteins was determined by incubation with anti-MD145-12 VLP guinea pig hyperimmune serum (1:2,000 dilution), followed by incubation with peroxidase-conjugated goat anti-guinea pig immunoglobulin G (1:2,000 dilution; KPL) and the peroxidase substrate ABTS (KPL). A suspension of MD145-12 VLPs (1g/ml) and a norovirus-negative stool were used as controls.
Blocking of binding of VLPs to synthetic HBGA by MAbs.The MD2004-3 VLPs were screened for binding to a panel of HBGA-associ-ated oligosaccharides as described elsewhere (8). The oligosaccharides examined in this study were type A, type B, Lea, Leb, Lex, Ley, H type 1 (H1), H2, and H3 biotin conjugates (GlycoTech Corporation, Gaithers-burg, MD). The ability of MAbs to block the binding of MD2004-3 to B carbohydrate was tested using serial 2-fold dilutions of each MAb (start-ing concentration, 15g/ml). First, the antibodies were preincubated with 1.5g/ml of MD2004-3 VLPs for 2 h. The VLPs (in the presence or absence of MAb) were added to carbohydrate-coated plates and incubated for 2 h. The binding of captured MD2004-3 VLPs was determined by incubation with guinea pig hyperimmune serum (1:2,000 dilution), fol-lowed by incubation with HRP-conjugated goat anti-guinea pig immu-noglobulin G (1:2,000 dilution; KPL) and the peroxidase substrate ABTS (KPL). The percent blocking was calculated using the value obtained for
Multiple Epitopes Involved in Norovirus HBGA Blocking
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VLPs that were not incubated with MAbs or sera. A blocking value of ⱕ50% of binding was considered to be under the cutoff value (26,40).
Construction and expression of chimeric VP1.The NV ORF2 se-quence was PCR amplified from plasmid NV FL101 (15) by use of the specific primers NV-SalIf and NV-NotIr (Table 1), which introduced unique SalI and NotI restriction sites at the 5=and 3=ends, respectively.
The PCR fragment was gel purified, digested with SalI and NotI, and ligated into the corresponding sites of a cut pCI expression vector, gener-ating a plasmid designated pCI-NV (Fig. 1A). A QuikChange site-directed mutagenesis kit (Stratagene, La Jolla, CA) was employed to mutagenize pCI-NV, using forward (NV-PspXIf) and reverse (NV-PspXIr) primers to introduce a PspXI restriction site at the hinge region (Fig. 1BandTable 1). This clone, designated pCI-NV-PspXI, served as an intermediate vector for swapping capsid domains.
To generate an NV S domain–MD2004-3 P domain chimera, the fol-lowing steps were performed. With pENTRMD2004-3 as the template, primers MD2004-3PspXIF and MD2004-3NotIR were used to generate an amplicon of the MD2004-3 P domain with flanking PspXI and NotI restriction sites. The amplicon was digested with NotI and PspXI and ligated into the pCI-NV-PspXI backbone, which had been digested with the same restriction enzymes, thereby replacing the NV P domain with the MD2004-3 P domain. The chimeric ORF2 plasmid was designated pCI-NV/MD2004-3 (Fig. 1C). A similar approach was applied to obtain an MD2004-3 shell domain-NV P domain chimera. Using the same clone of the MD2004-3 VP1-VP2 sequence as a template, we used primers MD2004-3-SalIF and MD2004-3-PspXIR to generate an amplicon of the MD2004-3 shell domain with flanking SalI and PspXI restriction sites.
TABLE 1Primers used for construction of GI.1/GII.4 chimeric capsid proteins
Primer Sequence (5=¡3=)a
NV-PspXIF gtttttagtccctcctacgCtCgagcagaaaaccaggc NV-PspXIR gcctggttttctgctcGaGcgtaggagggactaaaaac
NV-SalIf CGCGTGGTACCTCTAGAGTCGACatgatgatggcgtctaagg NV-NotIr CATGTCTGCTCGAAGCGGCCGCttatcggcgcagaccaagcc MD2004-3-PspXIf gtccctcctacgctcgagtcaagaactaaaccattcaccg
Introduced mutations are shown with bold uppercase letters, NV sequences are shown in italics, MD2004-3 sequences are shown with bold lowercase letters, and plasmid sequences are shown with uppercase letters.
FIG 1Construction of chimeric VP1 proteins. (A) Schematic diagram showing wild-type NV VP1. Amino acid numbers are in bold, and nucleotide numbers are italicized. The amino acid and nucleotide numbers corresponding to the borders of the shell (S) and protruding (P) domains are shown. The amino acid and nucleotide sequences of the hinge region are shown below. (B) A recombinant NV VP1 was engineered in which the valine at position 224 was replaced by leucine, generating a hinge region identical to that of the Hu/NoV/GII.3/Saga/5424/2003/JP strain (GenBank accession no.AB242256). The V224L substitution intro-duced a unique PspXI restriction site (the nucleotide sequence of the PspXI restriction site is underlined). (C and D) Chimeric VP1 expression vectors were generated by cloning either the P or S domain of the MD2004-3 strain into the pCI-NV-PspXI backbone vector.
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The amplicon was digested with SalI and PspXI and ligated into the pCI-NV-PspXI backbone, which had been digested with the same restriction enzymes, thereby replacing the Norwalk virus shell domain with the MD2004-3 shell domain. The chimeric VP1 plasmid was designated pCI-MD2004-3/NV (Fig. 1D). All constructs were confirmed by nucleotide sequencing. The expression of chimeric VLPs was achieved as described above.
Site-directed mutagenesis for epitope mapping.The ORF2 sequence of MD2004-3 was amplified from pENTR MD2004-3 with primers MD2004-3-SalIF and MD2004-3-NotIR, digested with the correspond-ing enzymes, and ligated into a pCI vector. Site-directed mutagenesis of pCI-MD2004-3 was performed using a QuikChange site-directed mutagenesis kit (Stratagene) and complementary forward and reverse primers which carried the nucleotide mutations (primer sequences are available upon request). The restriction enzyme DpnI (10 U/l) was used to digest the parental DNA. Each of the mutated products was transformed into Epicurian Coli XL1-Blue supercompetent cells (Stratagene). Transformed cells were grown overnight in LB plates with carbenicillin (50g/ml), and individual colonies were used for plasmid amplification. The resulting plasmids were subjected to se-quence analysis to verify the entire VP1 coding region and confirm the presence of the introduced mutations. MD2004-3 mutant VLPs were expressed and purified as described above.
Immunofluorescence microscopy.HeLa cells were plated in 96-well plates at 50,000 cells/well and infected with a modified vaccinia virus
expressing bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase (MVA-T7) at a multi-plicity of infection (MOI) of 5 PFU/cell for 1 h (62). After infection, cells were transfected with 400 ng/well of each DNA construct by use of Lipofectamine 2000 (Invitrogen) following the manufacturer’s recom-mendations. Cells were incubated for 24 h and then fixed with cold methanol for 20 min. The optimal dilution (1:200) of MAb was deter-mined by serial dilution. Goat anti-mouse IgG(H⫹L) conjugated with Alexa Fluor 594 (Molecular Probes-Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) was used for detection. Guinea pig hyperimmune sera raised against MD2004-3 VLPs and goat anti-guinea pig IgG(H⫹L) conjugated with Alexa Fluor 594 (Molecular Probes-Invitrogen) were used to confirm expression of the antigens.
Bioinformatics analyses.Nucleotide sequences from the prototype strains were downloaded from GenBank (accession numbers are shown in Fig. 2) and aligned by using the translated aa sequences. Phylogenetic trees were constructed using the Kimura two-parameter model as a nucleotide substitution model and a neighbor-joining (NJ) algorithm as imple-mented in MEGA v4.0 (55).
The solved structure of the P domain of VA387 virus (GII.4) in com-plex with carbohydrate (Protein Data Bank [PDB] accession number 2OBT) was used to identify the residues involved in binding with MAbs and was visualized by using MacPyMol (DeLano Scientific LLC).
Competition assays.For competition assays, MAbs were biotinylated by using an EZ-Link sulfo-NHS-LC biotinylation kit (Thermo Scientific, Rockford, IL) following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Ninety-FIG 2Phylogenetic tree of noroviruses showing the different genogroups and GII.4 strains (shaded box). The genogroup is indicated to the right of each phylogenetic cluster. The MD2004-3 GII.4 norovirus that was used to generate VLPs and monoclonal antibodies in this study is marked by a filled square. Noroviruses serving as the source for additional VLPs analyzed in this study are indicated with filled circles.
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six-well polyvinyl microtiter plates (Thermo) were coated with 100l (125 ng/ml) of MD2004-3 VLPs and incubated overnight at 4°C. Wells were washed with PBS-T and blocked with PBS-T with 1% BSA for 1 h at RT. Serial dilutions of each competitor MAb were made, with a starting concentration of 10g/ml, and were absorbed for 2 h at RT. Each biotin-conjugated MAb was absorbed for 2 h at RT, and binding to the VLP antigen was detected with high-sensitivity streptavidin-horseradish per-oxidase (1:10,000 dilution; Thermo Scientific) and ABTS (KPL). The concentration of MD2004-3 VLPs used for coating was optimized in ho-mologous competitions. The optimal concentration of each biotin-con-jugated MAb was determined to yield an optical density at 450 nm (OD450) of 0.8 to 1.5 by binding with MD2004-3 VLP-coated plates. The percent competition or enhanced binding was determined for all compet-itor MAb concentrations, based on the value of the PBS control (i.e., the value of binding of biotin-conjugated MAb to MD2004-3 VLPs).
Blocking of MD2004-3 hyperimmune serum by MAbs.The blocking activity of each MAb or pool of MAbs against the binding of polyclonal hyperimmune serum directed against MD2004-3 VLPs was examined by ELISA. Briefly, 96-well polyvinyl microtiter plates (Thermo) were coated with 250 ng/ml of MD2004-3 VLPs and incubated overnight at 4°C. Wells were washed with PBS-T and blocked with PBS-T–1% BSA for 1 h at RT. Each MAb (10g/ml), singly or in pooled solutions, was absorbed for 2 h at RT. Wells were washed with PBS-T, and 10-fold serial dilutions of an MD2004-3 hyperimmune serum were incubated for 1 h at RT. The bind-ing of hyperimmune serum to the VLP antigen was detected with
HRP-conjugated goat anti-guinea pig immunoglobulin G (1:2,000) and ABTS (KPL).
Expression and purification of MD2004-3 VLPs.
was identified in 2004 as a causative agent of diarrhea in a
Balti-more, MD, hospital outbreak (
). This strain grouped within the
Farmington Hills cluster of the GII.4 genotype (
emerged in 2002 and became the globally predominant GII.4
strain during 2002 and 2004 (
). In order to develop VLPs for
further study, the ORF2 (VP1) and ORF3 (VP2) genes of the
MD2004-3 strain were engineered into a recombinant
baculovi-rus, and the norovirus capsid proteins were expressed in
baculo-virus-infected insect cells. Following concentration of the
result-ing VLPs by ultracentrifugation in CsCl gradients, visible bands
were collected and dialyzed against PBS. Denaturing
polyacryl-amide gel electrophoresis of the proteins recovered from the CsCl
gradient showed two bands that migrated between 50 and 64 kDa
, lane 2). The presence of VLPs was confirmed by electron
Isolation of MD2004-3-specific MAbs and their reactivity
with other VLPs.
After two fusions, 16 hybridoma clones were
screened as positive for reactivity with MD2004-3 VLPs. Isotyping
identified 10 IgM-secreting and 6 IgG-secreting hybridomas: this
study focused on characterization of the IgG MAbs. The IgG
MAbs were further isotyped as subclass IgG1 (A10, B11, and B12),
IgG2b (A3 and B15), and IgG2a (A6) MAbs (
). All six
MAbs reacted with high titers (
) against the MD2004-3 VLPs
by ELISA, but none was reactive by Western blotting, suggesting
that they each recognized conformational epitopes (
reactivity of each MAb was further evaluated by ELISA, using a
panel of 10 additional VLPs available in our laboratory (
Four distinct patterns of cross-reactivity could be seen with other
GII VLPs (
). The first pattern was represented by MAb B15,
which showed cross-reactivity among all GII.4 VLPs in the panel
and low cross-reactivity with a GII.3 strain. The second pattern,
exhibited by MAbs A10, B11, and B12, showed strong reactivity
and specificity for the immunizing GII virus, MD2004-3, only. A
third pattern, represented by MAb A6, showed strong reactivity
with MD2004-3 and weak reactivity with MD145-12. Finally,
MAb A3 was strongly reactive with GII.4 strains detected in 1987
and 2004 (i.e., MD145-12, HS-191, and MD2004-3) and, to a
lesser extent, with GII.4 VLPs from 1974 and with GII.1 and GII.2
viruses. To determine whether the MAbs described here could
recognize native GII.4 norovirus virions, biotinylated MAbs were
attached to NeutriAvidin-coated plates and tested against 10%
stool suspensions positive for MD145-12 virus. As expected, the
three MAbs (A3, A6, and B15) that reacted with MD145-12 VLPs
were also able to detect native viral proteins present in stoolsam-FIG 3Expression and antigenic characterization of wild-type and chimeric
VLPs. (A) SDS-PAGE showing the masses of the expressed proteins. VLPs were analyzed by Tris-glycine SDS-PAGE in a 10% gel stained with Coomassie blue. (B) Electron micrographs of VLPs expressed in the baculovirus system and visualized by negative staining with 3% phosphotungstic acid, pH 7.2. (C) Reactivity of MAbs with chimeric VLPs. Binding of MAbs was measured by ELISA as described in Materials and Methods. The black shaded squares rep-resent positive binding, and white squares reprep-resent no binding (seeFig. 4 legend for positive and negative cutoff values). The nomenclature of each VLP is described in Materials and Methods.
TABLE 2Characteristics of MD2004-3 monoclonal antibodies generated in this study
Reactivity of MAb in assayb
A3 A6 A10 B11 B12 B15
ELISA ⫹ ⫹ ⫹ ⫹ ⫹ ⫹
Western blotting ⫺ ⫺ ⫺ ⫺ ⫺ ⫺ aELISA and Western blotting used MD2004-3 VLPs as antigen.
A10, B11, and B12 are IgG1 MAbs, A6 is an IgG2a MAb, and A3 and B15 are IgG2b MAbs.
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). None of the MAbs demonstrated reactivity with the
VLPs representing GI (Norwalk and Desert Shield395) or GIV
HBGA binding and blocking analyses.
In the absence of a cell
culture system or a small-animal model for study of the
norovi-ruses, the blocking of VLP binding to HBGA molecules has been
used as a surrogate of neutralization (
). Thus, in order to
identify the appropriate carbohydrate(s) recognized by VLPs and
therefore suitable for performing blocking assays with the MAbs,
we examined the HBGA binding profile of the MD2004-3 VLPs.
As shown in
, the VLPs from the MD2004-3 virus bound
strongly to carbohydrates B and H3.
To test the ability of MAbs to block the binding of VLPs to the
H3 and B carbohydrates, each MAb was incubated with
MD2004-3 VLPs as described in Materials and Methods. All MAbs
(with the exception of MAb B15) blocked the interaction of
the MD2004-3 VLPs with both the H3 (data not shown) and B
) carbohydrates. MAb B15 did not block binding to H3,
but it partially blocked the interaction of VLPs with B
carbohy-drate at the highest concentration tested (15
g/ml). Blocking ofFIG 5Detection of native MD145-12 proteins in stool samples. Biotinylated
MAbs were incubated in NeutriAvidin-coated plates, and a 10% stool suspen-sion of MD145-12 was incubated for 2 h. Binding of captured native proteins was determined by incubation with anti-MD145-12 VLP hyperimmune se-rum, followed by incubation with a peroxidase-conjugated goat anti-guinea pig immunoglobulin G and the peroxidase substrate ABTS. A suspension of MD145-12 VLPs (1g/ml) and a norovirus-negative stool were used as con-trols. The experiment was performed twice in duplicate wells. Bars represent the means, the error bars represent the standard errors of the means (SEM), and the dashed line represents the limit of detection.
FIG 4Reactivity of MAbs raised against MD2004-3 virus with a panel of VLPs. Binding of MAbs (labeled for each VLP experiment as indicated in the bottom panels) was measured by ELISA as described in Materials and Methods. Reactivity of VLPs with hyperimmune sera is represented by black bars. Student’sttest was used to compare reactivity differences of weakly positive MAbs and the negative control. Statistics were assessed using GraphPad Prism 5.0. Statistical significance is denoted by asterisks: *,Pⱕ0.05; **,Pⱕ0.001. The dashed line represents the cutoff value.
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the VLP-carbohydrate interaction occurred in a dose-dependent
Identification of binding domain (S or P) specificity in VP1.
The capsid protein (VP1) of noroviruses is composed of two
do-mains, S and P. In order to map the domain of VP1 recognized by
the GII.4 MAbs, a strategy was developed to generate chimeric
VP1 proteins with S and P domain swaps between MD2004-3
(GII.4) and Norwalk virus (GI.1) in the pCI eukaryotic expression
). First, full-length cDNA clones of ORF2 of
MD2004-3 (pCI-MD2004-3) and Norwalk virus (pCI-NV) were
constructed, and the expression of VP1 was verified with the
cor-responding hyperimmune serum by immunofluorescence (data
not shown). A unique PspXI restriction endonuclease site was
introduced between the S and P coding sequences in the Norwalk
virus clone (yielding pCI-NV-PspXI) to allow the exchange of
regions between Norwalk virus and MD2004-3. The resulting
plasmids, carrying chimeric VP1 genes, and the control plasmids
pCI-MD2004-3 and pCI-NV were transfected into HeLa cells in
the presence of MVA-T7 to increase expression efficiency (
and the binding of monoclonal antibodies was examined by
im-munofluorescence. All of the MAbs reacted with cells transfected
with pCI-MD2004-3 but not with pCI-NV or empty pCI vector
). MAbs A3, A6, A10, B11, and B12 reacted with the
chime-ric VP1 protein that carried the P domain from MD2004-3, while
MAb B15 reacted with the chimeric VP1 protein that carried the S
domain from MD2004-3 (
To examine whether the conformational epitopes recognized
by the MAbs in the eukaryotic expression studies would be present
on intact VLPs, the chimeric VP1 genes were cloned and expressed
using a baculovirus system as described in Materials and Methods.
SDS-PAGE showed the presence of proteins that migrated the
same distance as proteins with sizes between 50 and 64 kDa (
, lanes 3 and 4). The presence of self-assembled VLPs was
de-tected by electron microscopy (
), and their chimeric
anti-genic profile was confirmed by Western blotting with GI- and
GII-specific antisera (data not shown). The specificity of MAb
binding to the purified VLPs in an ELISA was identical to that
observed with the pCI-based constructs in transfected cells
Fine mapping of putative epitopes.
An alignment of the aa
sequences of the four VP1 proteins corresponding to the GII.4
VLPs used in this study showed the presence of 31 variable sites in
the P domain that might be involved in epitope specificity (data
not shown). To directly map residues involved in the formation of
the various epitopes, we examined the predicted locations of the
aa residues on the mono- and dimeric models of the crystal
struc-ture of the VP1 protein, including exposure on the surface of the
capsid and proximity to HBGA binding sites. We targeted 14 aa
residues as possible determinants of antigenic specificity (
and the pCI-MD2004-3 DNA construct was subjected to
site-di-rected mutagenesis (
). Even though residues 411 and 412
were not in close proximity to the HBGA binding sites,
mutagen-esis of these residues was performed because they were identical in
the MD2004-3, HS-191, and MD145-12 strains and represented a
potential site for the cross-reactive MAb A3 or A6. The resulting
constructs were transfected into HeLa cells, and binding of each of
the MAbs was examined by immunofluorescence assay. One
con-struct carrying the AD294GI mutations lost reactivity with MAbs
A6 and A10 (
). To confirm this finding, we cloned the VP1
gene encoding the AD294GI mutations into a baculovirus vector.
MD2004-3 mutant VLPs were used to confirm the loss of
reactiv-ity of MAbs A6 and A10 by ELISA (
). Analysis of the X-ray
structure of VA387 revealed that residues 294 and 295 (indicated
in red) are located in a loop between
-sheet 2 (
3, at the
top of the P domain, at equal distances between the two HBGA
binding sites (
). Note that all other VLPs that tested
negative by ELISA against MAbs A6 and A10 (
) differed in
sequence at aa residues 294 and 295 of the capsid protein (
), providing further evidence of the importance of these aaresi-FIG 6MAbs block the binding of MD2004-3 VLPs to HBGA. (A) HBGA
binding pattern of MD2004-3 VLPs. The ability of VLPs to bind to synthetic biotinylated carbohydrates was measured by ELISA. The graph represents the results from two experiments performed in duplicate, with each dot represent-ing the mean for duplicate wells. (B) Percent bindrepresent-ing of MD2004-3 VLPs to carbohydrate B in the presence of MAbs (starting concentration, 15g/ml) was calculated as described in Materials and Methods. Error bars represent SEM. The dashed line represents the 50% blocking cutoff value.
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dues in the binding of MAbs A6 and A10. The binding of three P
region MAbs (A3, B11, and B12) was not affected by the above
mutations introduced into MD2004-3 VP1 (
Identification of antigenic sites.
We next performed
compe-tition assays with biotinylated MAbs to define the number of
an-tigenic sites in the capsid protein recognized by the MAbs in our
panel. Note that unlabeled MAbs inhibited the binding of their
biotinylated counterparts, in a dose-dependent manner.
Repre-sentative results for the A3 MAb (competed only against itself)
and the A6 MAb (competed against several MAbs) are shown in
. Four different antigenic areas could be identified based on
cross-competition assays (
). MAbs A3 and B15 showed
homologous competition only, suggesting that they bind to
unique sites, designated antigenic sites I and III, respectively (
). In addition, competition analyses of MAbs A6, A10, B11,
and B12 suggested that they map in two overlapping antigenic
sites, designated antigenic sites IIa (A6 and A10) and IIb (B11 and
The ability to block the binding of GII.4-specific hyperimmune
serum to MD2004-3 VLPs by each MAb or combination of MAbs
was examined by ELISA. A pool of six MAbs was able to block
hyperimmune serum binding in a dose-dependent manner, with
the maximum blocking obtained at dilutions of the hyperimmune
serum between 10⫺3
). All of the MAbs that
mapped in the P domain of the capsid were able to block the
binding of hyperimmune serum to MD2004-3 VLPs, whereas
MAb B15 (which mapped in the S domain) was not (
Interestingly, when pools of three MAbs that represented at least
one MAb from each of the antigenic sites were used, the blocking
titers were similar to those of the pool of six MAbs. Moreover, no
statistically significant difference was found in the blocking titer of
MAb B11 or B12 compared to that of the pool of MAbs, suggesting
that B11 and B12 represent an immunodominant epitope.
Despite the role of noroviruses as major etiological agents of acute
viral gastroenteritis, research on vaccines has historically been
hampered by the lack of a permissive cell line or robust animal
). Currently, recombinant VLPs serve as a tool to study
the antigenic structure of noroviruses (
) and are
in development as vaccine candidates (
). Yet there are
many unanswered questions regarding the effective design and
development of norovirus vaccines, such as the identification ofFIG 7Expression of chimeric VP1 in eukaryotic cells. The images show immunofluorescence staining of HeLa cells transfected with different DNA constructs: pCI with VP1 from MD2004-3 (pCI-MD2004-3) and NV (pCI-NV), pCI with S domain from NV and P domain from MD2004-3 (pCI-NV/MD2004-3), and pCI with S domain from MD2004-3 and P domain from NV (pCI-MD2004-3/NV). MAb binding was detected with goat anti-mouse IgG conjugated with Alexa Fluor 594.
Multiple Epitopes Involved in Norovirus HBGA Blocking
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FIG 8Fine mapping of epitopes from MD2004-3 MAbs. (A) Immunofluorescence staining results for HeLa cells transfected with different DNA constructs. Mutations in VP1 from MD2004-3 (pCI-MD2004-3; WT) were introduced by using specific primers and a QuikChange site-directed mutagenesis kit (Strat-agene, La Jolla, CA) following the manufacturer’s recommendations. (B) Electron micrographs and MAb reactivities of VLPs carrying AD294GI mutations. Binding of MAbs was measured by ELISA as described in Materials and Methods. (C) Structure of the P domain. Mutations in the structure of the P domain are colored light blue. Amino acids involved in the binding of MAbs A6 and A10 are shown in red. The HBGA binding sites are colored in pink, and the carbohydrate is shown in green.
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antigenic sites involved in virus neutralization and protection
Over the last decade, GII.4 noroviruses have been the most
common cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States
and Europe (
). In 2002, the Farmington Hills cluster of
GII.4 viruses displaced older variants of GII.4 globally and became
an important cluster from an evolutionary and epidemiological
). In order to further elucidate the antigenic
properties of this genetic cluster, we developed and characterized
a panel of six IgG MAbs against the capsid protein of MD2004-3,
a Farmington Hills-like strain.
In concordance with evidence that norovirus genogroups
pres-ent major antigenic differences (
), none of the MAbs
detected VLPs from genogroups GI and GIV. Two (A3 and B15) of
the six MAbs were cross-reactive with different GII VLPs, and the
remaining four MAbs reacted with one (A10, B11, and B12) or
two (A6) GII.4 VLPs. Interestingly, the epitopes of five of the
MAbs mapped within the P domain, and that of one (B15)
mapped within the S domain. Several cross-reactive MAbs have
been described for noroviruses, and epitopes for most of them
have been mapped within the most conserved regions of the
no-rovirus capsid protein (C-terminal P or S domain). As suggested
previously, cross-reactive MAbs could potentially be used in
diag-nostic assays (
); however, Oliver et al. (
de-scribed a cross-reactive MAb that recognized a linear epitope in
the S domain of the VLPs from bovine noroviruses that did not
detect native virions in fecal samples from experimental animals.
They proposed that because the S domain forms the innermost
domain of the capsid, the epitope is not accessible in native
viri-ons. In the 5-fold axis of the GII.4 capsid, there is a small
surface-exposed region of the S domain that is conserved among GII
strains (data not shown). Although it is possible that B15 might
recognize this exposed region, it showed low reactivity with native
MD145-12 virions in a 10% stool suspension. Together, these
re-sults suggest that certain S domain epitopes may not be optimal
for detection of small quantities of viruses in stool, even though
they are shown to be highly cross-reactive with purified VLPs.
The blocking of norovirus HBGA binding sites by sera from
immunized animals or infected humans has been used as a
surro-gate for a norovirus neutralization assay (
). Importantly, it
was recently shown that the ability of sera to block VLP-HBGA
interaction correlates with protection against infection in
NV-vaccinated chimpanzees and against illness in infected human
). Five of the six MAbs described here could block
the interaction of MD2004-3 VLPs with two synthetic HBGA
car-bohydrates (H3 and B), and as expected, their recognition
epitopes mapped within the P domain. The S domain-specific
MAb B15 did not block the interaction of MD2004-3 VLPs withTABLE 3Comparison of aa residues involved in binding of MD2004-3
MAbs among selected GII noroviruses
aa at positiona: MAb reactivityb
294 295 A6 A10
GII.4/MD2004-3/2004 A D ⫹⫹ ⫹⫹ GII.4/HS-191/2001 A G ⫺ ⫺ GII.4/MD145-12/1987 V G ⫹ ⫺ GII.4/CHDC4871/1977 G I ⫺ ⫺ GII.4/CHDC5191/1974 G I ⫺ ⫺ GII.3/Toronto24/1991 T S ⫺ ⫺ GII.2/SnowMountain/1976 L Q ⫺ ⫺ GII.1/Hawaii/1971 V P ⫺ ⫺ aResidues present in wild-type viruses. For the GenBank accession number of each
strain, refer toFig. 2.
b⫹⫹, strong reactivity;⫹, weak reactivity;⫺, no reactivity (seeFig. 4).
FIG 9Competitive binding assays of MD2004-3 MAbs. (A) Representative results for a MAb that competed only against itself (A3) and a MAb that competed against several MAbs (A6). The 100% and 50% cutoffs of reactivity for biotinylated MAbs are indicated by dashed lines. (B) Competition matrix showing a summary of epitope mapping. Six MAbs were biotinylated and tested against the same panel of unlabeled MAbs. The reduction of binding from the positive-control value obtained with the largest amount of competi-tor antibody is shown.
Multiple Epitopes Involved in Norovirus HBGA Blocking
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carbohydrate H3, consistent with the likely internal location of its
epitope in the capsid. Our unexpected finding that MAb B15
caused partial blocking of MD2004-3 VLPs with carbohydrate B
(and not H3) suggests that binding of some antibodies in the S
domain might also influence capsid interactions with certain
Recently, two binding sites for MAbs developed against VLPs
from different GII.4 strains were described. One site comprised a
cluster of seven residues (i.e., residues 294 to 298, 368, and 372)
), while the other included three residues (i.e., residues 407,
412, and 413) (
). Importantly, these residues were shown to
interact with HBGA-blocking MAbs, suggesting that they may be
associated with protective immunity (
). We used the various
reactivity patterns of our panel of GII.4 MAbs against the VLPs to
identify putative residues involved in determining their specificity
and designed MD2004-3 capsids carrying mutations in those
res-idues. Allen et al. (
) reported that after introduction of point
mutations into recombinant GII.4 capsids, they failed to obtain
recombinant VLPs for one of the four designed constructs,
sug-gesting that the introduction of certain mutations can be
structur-ally unfavorable for assembly. We showed that several mutant
capsids engineered in this study reacted with the conformational
MAbs and therefore acquired the correct folding. However, two of
the MAbs (A6 and A10) in our study lost their reactivity when
residues Ala 294 and Asp 295 were mutated to Gly and Ile,
respec-tively, confirming that residues 294 and 295 are involved in the
formation of an important antigenic site (
). Thus, these
data are consistent with the involvement of this epitope in
diver-sification of GII.4 strains and in immune responses against
The identification and characterization of viral B cell epitopes
have been important in establishing the roles of different antigenic
sites in protection (
). Using overlapping fragments of
the norovirus capsid protein, Yoda et al. (
) have shown the
presence of three continuous antigenic sites for a GII.3 strain
(NV36 virus), with two in the S domain and one in the P domain.
Because synthetic short peptides or overlapping fragments of the
VP1 protein generally cannot be used to map discontinuous
epitopes, competitive ELISAs have been employed widely in the
topological mapping of MAbs that recognize conformational
epitopes. Thus, using competitive ELISAs, Hale et al. (
the presence of five antigenic sites in the capsid from NV (GI.1
strain), and the binding domain from one site was determined by
mutagenesis analyses (
). Cross-competition assays using the
panel of MAbs described here showed the presence of at least four
antigenic sites in the capsid of GII.4 noroviruses, with two of these
). Using GI/GII chimeric VP1 proteins, we
identified the binding domains of the four antigenic sites.
Specif-ically, one unique antigenic site (site I) and two overlapping sites
(sites IIa and IIb) were detected in the P domain, while site III was
mapped in the S domain. MAbs A6 and A10 share the same
anti-genic site (IIa), consistent with their loss of reactivity when
resi-dues 294 and 295 from the capsid were subjected to mutagenesis.
MAbs B11 and B12 recognize overlapping epitopes in the same
antigenic site (IIb), although competition assays and reactivityTABLE 4Summary of antigenic sites defined by cross-competition analyses
Antigenic site Associated MAb(s) Binding domain HBGA-blocking activity GII.4 VLPs that react with associated MAb(s)
I A3 P ⫹ MD2004-3, HS-191, MD145-12, CHDC4871, CHDC5191
IIa A6, A10 P ⫹ MD2004-3, MD145-12
IIb B11, B12 P ⫹ MD2004-3
III B15 S ⫺ MD2004-3, HS-191, MD145-12, CHDC4871, CHDC5191
FIG 10MAbs block the binding of MD2004-3 hyperimmune serum to ho-mologous VLPs. (A) Blocking activities of a pool of the six MAbs described in this study against different dilutions of guinea pig hyperimmune sera raised against MD2004-3 VLPs. (B) Reactivity of hyperimmune serum (dilution of 10⫺4) against MD2004-3 VLPs in the presence or absence of MAbs. Reactivity
of hyperimmune serum with VLPs was measured as described in Materials and Methods. Each dot represents the mean for duplicate wells from a single ex-periment. Bars represent the average OD. Student’sttest was used to compare differences in blocking assay results and unblocked-control results. Statistics were assessed using GraphPad Prism 5.0. Statistical significance is denoted by asterisks: *,Pⱕ0.05; **,Pⱕ0.001.
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patterns with different VLPs suggest that these MAbs map to
The ability of the pool of six MAbs to efficiently block the
binding of a high-titer hyperimmune serum raised against GII.4
VLPs suggests that the major antigenic sites of the capsid are
rep-resented in the MAb panel. Interestingly, when combinations of
three MAbs representing each of the three antigenic sites
de-scribed for the P domain were examined, the blocking effect was
similar to that of the pool of six MAbs. Thus, these data suggest
that the three antigenic sites described here are likely
immuno-dominant sites of the GII.4 norovirus capsid. It will be important
to examine whether serum antibodies from immune individuals
block the binding of these MAbs. If so, epitope blocking assays
employing these MAbs might serve as a surrogate for virus
Three possible mechanisms can be involved in the blocking of
the HBGA binding site: (i) direct blocking, (ii) steric interference,
or (iii) conformational changes that affect the structure. The fine
mapping of MAbs A6 and A10 in conjunction with the fact that
the other conformational MAbs, which mapped to different
anti-genic areas, did not significantly lose their reactivity after
incuba-tion with competitor MAbs (i.e., A3 and B15) provides evidence
that steric interference is the mechanism by which these MAbs
block the HBGA binding site of GII.4 noroviruses. Importantly,
MAbs directed against the P2 domain have been shown to
neu-tralize murine norovirus (MNV) infection (
), and one
MNV MAb has been shown to neutralize infection by covering
the outer surface of the P2 domain without causing any
appar-ent conformational changes in the capsid protein (
because our GII.4 MAbs bind to multiple epitopes of the P2
domain and block HBGA-VLP interactions, they may prove
useful in defining functional antigenic sites of human
norovi-ruses in structural studies.
Norovirus vaccines based on VLP formulations have gained
special interest because they have been shown to induce both
sys-temic and mucosal immune responses when administered
intra-nasally or orally (
). Recently, El-Kamary et al. reported data
from phase I clinical trials in which NV VLPs were administered
intranasally to humans, with monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL) and
chitosan as adjuvants (
). No vaccine-related serious adverse
events were reported, and high IgG and IgA titers developed when
g of VLPs was administered. In addition, Bok et al. (
shown that chimpanzees vaccinated intramuscularly with GI
VLPs, but not GII VLPs, were protected against infection with GI
Norwalk virus, confirming the idea that multivalent vaccines may
be required for protection against currently circulating
norovi-ruses. In this regard, the S/P (S domain from one genogroup and P
domain from another) chimeric norovirus VLPs might present
the advantage of inducing broadly reactive immune responses and
thus may constitute a new platform for norovirus VLP-based
vac-cines. It has been shown that the CD4⫹
epitopes are located in
different domains of VLPs, depending on the norovirus strain
). Thus, even though it is believed that most B cell neutralizing
epitopes might be located in the P domain of the capsid, the
pres-ence of T cell epitopes in the S domain suggests that vaccination
with S/P chimeric VLPs might enhance the immune response and
cross-protection against different genogroups.
In summary, we report the generation and characterization of
a new panel of MAbs directed toward epitopes on the capsid of
GII.4 norovirus, the predominant norovirus genotype. The VP1
domain specificity of each MAb was established with a panel of
VLPs and GI/GII chimeric VLPs, and the ability to block HBGA
binding corresponded to specificity for the P domain. Modeling
and mutagenesis studies established that evolution in the
norovi-rus capsid protein may affect both antigenic and carbohydrate
recognition phenotypes, consistent with a link between HBGA
blocking and the potential neutralization activity of antibodies.
Further characterization of the reagents developed in this study
may facilitate the establishment of surrogates of protection against
norovirus illness and may provide new approaches to
develop-ment of candidate vaccines.
This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, NIAID.
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