Optimization of RG1-VLP vaccine performance in mice with novel TLR4 agonists

Athina Zacharia, Erin Harberts, Sarah M. Valencia, Breana Myers, Chelsea Sanders, Akshay Jain, Nicholas R. Larson, C. Russell Middaugh, William D. Picking, Simone Difilippantonio, Reinhard Kirnbauer, Richard B. Roden, Ligia A. Pinto, Robert H. Shoemaker, Robert K. Ernst, Jason D. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines provide substantial protection against the most common HPV types responsible for oral and anogenital cancers, but many circulating cancer-causing types remain that lack vaccine coverage. The novel RG1-VLP (virus-like particle) vaccine candidate utilizes the HPV16-L1 subunit as a backbone to display an inserted HPV16-L2 17–36 a.a. “RG1” epitope; the L2 RG1 epitope is conserved across many HPV types and the generation of cross-neutralizing antibodies (Abs) against which has been demonstrated. In an effort to heighten the immunogenicity of the RG1-VLP vaccine, we compared in BALB/c mice adjuvant formulations consisting of novel bacterial enzymatic combinatorial chemistry (BECC)-derived toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) agonists and the aluminum hydroxide adjuvant Alhydrogel. In the presence of BECC molecules, consistent improvements in the magnitude of Ab responses to both HPV16-L1 and the L2 RG1 epitope were observed compared to Alhydrogel alone. Furthermore, neutralizing titers to HPV16 as well as cross-neutralization of pseudovirion (PsV) types HPV18 and HPV39 were augmented in the presence of BECC agonists as well. Levels of L1 and L2-specific Abs were achieved after two vaccinations with BECC/Alhydrogel adjuvant that were equivalent to or greater than levels achieved with 3 vaccinations with Alhydrogel alone, indicating that the presence of BECC molecules resulted in accelerated immune responses that could allow for a decreased dose schedule for VLP-based HPV vaccines. In addition, dose-sparing studies indicated that adjuvantation with BECC/Alhydrogel allowed for a 75% reduction in antigen dose while still retaining equivalent magnitudes of responses to the full VLP dose with Alhydrogel. These data suggest that adjuvant optimization of HPV VLP-based vaccines can lead to rapid immunity requiring fewer boosts, dose-sparing of VLPs expensive to produce, and the establishment of a longer-lasting humoral immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-302
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 8 2021


  • Adjuvants
  • HPV
  • HPV-L2
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Neutralizing antibody
  • Prophylactic vaccine
  • TLR4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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