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Development of a multi-epitope peptide vaccine against human leishmaniases

Abstract : Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne neglected tropical disease endemic to 98 countries worldwide. Twenty Leishmania species are capable of establishing intracellular infection within human macrophages, causing different clinical presentations. Vaccine development against leishmaniases is supported by evidence of natural immunity against infection, mediated by a dominant cellular Th1 response and production of IFN-γ, IL-2 and TNF-α by polyfunctional TCD4+ and TCD8+ cells, ultimately leading to macrophage activation and parasite killing.Excreted-secreted proteins are important virulence factors present throughout Leishmania life stages and are able to induce durable protection in dogs, a good model for human infection. We aim to develop a second generation vaccine from the Leishmania secretome, with the potential for large scale dissemination in a cost-effective, reproducible approach.The secretome of six main pathogenic species (plus L. tarentolae) was analysed by Mass-Spectrometry and conserved candidate antigens were searched in the complete dataset. A total of 52 vaccine antigen candidates were selected, including 28 previously described vaccine candidates, and an additional 24 new candidates discovered through a reverse vaccinology approach.In silico HLA-I and –II epitope binding prediction analysis was performed on all selected vaccine antigens, with world coverage regarding HLA restriction. To select the best epitopes, an automated R script was developed in-house, according to strict rational criteria. From thousands of potential epitopes, the automated script, in combination with optimal IC50, homology to host and solubility properties, allowed us to select 50 class I and 24 class II epitopes, synthesized as individual peptides. In vitro toxicity assays showed these selected peptides are non-toxic to cells.The peptides’ immunogenicity was evaluated using immunoscreening assays with immune cells from human donors, allowing for the validation of in silico epitope predictions and selection, and the assessment of the peptide’s immunogenicity and prophylactic potential. Healed individuals, which had active infection and received treatment, possess Leishmania-specific memory responses and are resistant to reinfection, being considered the gold standard of protective immunity. On the other hand, the naive population is extremely important to include in the experimental validation step since it is the target population to vaccinate with a prophylactic vaccine. Importantly, a minimum specific T-cell precursor frequency is needed to induce long-lasting memory protective responses. Furthermore, there is also a positive correlation between immunodominant epitopes and a high frequency of specific T-cell precursors. Peptides able to induce Th1 and/or cytotoxic immune responses in both background are promising candidates for a vaccine formulation. Altogether,experimental validation exclusively in human samples will provide us a very strong base for a vaccine formulation and allow to accelerate translation to the field.Results show Leishmania-specific peptides successfully induce IFN-γ production by total PBMC from healed donors, and by specific T cells amplified from the naïve repertoire. Preliminary evidence exists for peptides which are immunogenic in both immune backgrounds (eight HLA-class I 9-mer peptides and five class II 15-mer peptides) which are, for now, the most promising candidates to advance for the multi-epitope peptide design.Through the combination of proteomic analysis and in silico tools, promising peptide candidates were swiftly identified and the secretome was further established as an optimal starting point for vaccine development. The proposed vaccine preclinical development pipeline delivered a rapid selection of immunogenic peptides, providing a powerful approach to fast-track the deployment of an effective pan-specific vaccine against Leishmaniases.
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Submitted on : Friday, November 29, 2019 - 4:24:10 PM
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Joana da Silva Pissarra. Development of a multi-epitope peptide vaccine against human leishmaniases. Human health and pathology. Université Montpellier, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019MONTT013⟩. ⟨tel-02387247⟩

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