Having developed a genetic procedure to expose a foreign epitope at the surface of Escherichia coli by using the outer membrane LamB protein as a carrier, we apply this procedure to express two distinct portions of the preS2 region of hepatitis B virus: region A, residues 132-145, and region B, residues 153-171. The resulting hybrid proteins (LamB-preS2 A and LamB-preS2 B) were normally expressed, stable, and still kept most biologic functions of LamB. The corresponding bacterial strains were used directly as immunogens in rabbits and mice. Both viral sequences were found to be immunogenic in the two animal species. With LamB-preS2 A, antibodies induced were able to react with the viral particles and the immobilized peptide. With LamB-preS2 B, the antibodies raised were not able to recognize the immobilized peptide. However, the results suggest that the B epitope, inserted in LamB, was at least as efficient as the corresponding synthetic peptide in raising antiviral antibodies. Thus, epitope presentation with LamB may present advantages for immunization. We also have shown that peptide A is an essential part of the polymerized human serum albumin receptor. These results, which validate further the LamB vector system for epitope presentation, provide information on the two hepatitis B regions expressed.

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