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Characterization of a Norovirus-specific monoclonal antibody that exhibits wide spectrum binding activities.

Noroviruses (NoVs) are increasingly recognized as the leading cause of acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. To screen for NoV-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with wide spectrum binding activities that could be used for the development of NoV-related detection reagents, we immunized mice with a combination of virus like particles (VLPs) derived from eight different genotypes (two from genogroup I and six from genogroup II), of which two (GI.7 and GII.2) were newly produced VLPs. Indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) confirmed that two mAbs (8D8 and 10B11) bound to all eight major capsid proteins (VP1) with varied binding abilities. Epitope mapping using short peptides covering the N-terminal half of GII.3 VP1 indicated that the binding site of mAb 8D8 was located between amino acid 31 and 60. Multiple amino acid sequence alignment of VP1 suggested that this site harbors conservative sequences across all genogroups. Indirect and sandwich ELISA indicated that mAb 8D8 was unable bind intact VLPs. In summary, we successfully produced GI.7 and GII.2 VLPs using recombinant baculovirus expression system and a cross-reactive mAb by immunizing mice with eight different VLPs that might be useful in the studying and detecting NoVs.

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Norovirus Escape from Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies Is Limited to Allostery-Like Mechanisms.

Ideal antiviral vaccines elicit antibodies (Abs) with broad strain recognition that bind to regions that are difficult to mutate for escape. Using 10 murine norovirus (MNV) strains and 5 human norovirus (HuNoV) virus-like particles (VLPs), we identified monoclonal antibody (MAb) 2D3, which broadly neutralized all MNV strains tested. Importantly, escape mutants corresponding to this antibody were very slow to develop and were distal to those raised against our previously studied antibody, A6.2. To understand the atomic details of 2D3 neutralization, we determined the cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of the 2D3/MNV1 complex. Interestingly, 2D3 binds to the top of the P domain, very close to where A6.2 binds, but the only escape mutations identified to date fall well outside the contact regions of both 2D3 and A6.2. To determine how mutations in distal residues could block antibody binding, we used molecular dynamics flexible fitting simulations of the atomic structures placed into the density map to examine the 2D3/MNV1 complex and these mutations. Our findings suggest that the escape mutant, V339I, may stabilize a salt bridge network at the P-domain dimer interface that, in an allostery-like manner, affects the conformational relaxation of the P domain and the efficiency of binding. They further highlight the unusual antigenic surface bound by MAb 2D3, one which elicits cross-reactive antibodies but which the virus is unable to alter to escape neutralization. These results may be leveraged to generate norovirus (NoV) vaccines containing broadly neutralizing antibodies.The simplest and most common way for viruses to escape antibody neutralization is by mutating residues that are essential for antibody binding. Escape mutations are strongly selected for by their effect on viral fitness, which is most often related to issues of protein folding, particle assembly, and capsid function. The studies presented here demonstrated that a broadly neutralizing antibody to mouse norovirus binds to an exposed surface but that the only escape mutants that arose were distal to the antibody binding surface. To understand this finding, we performed ananalysis that suggested that those escape mutations blocked antibody binding by affecting structural plasticity. This kind of antigenic region-one that gives rise to broadly neutralizing antibodies but that the virus finds difficult to escape from-is therefore ideal for vaccine development.

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Mapping and modeling of a strain-specific epitope in the Norwalk virus capsid inner shell.

Noroviruses are diverse positive-strand RNA viruses associated with acute gastroenteritis. Cross-reactive epitopes have been mapped primarily to conserved sequences in the capsid VP1 Shell (S) domain, and strain-specific epitopes to the highly variable Protruding (P) domain. In this work, we investigated a strain-specific linear epitope defined by MAb NV10 that was raised against prototype (Genogroup I.1) strain Norwalk virus (NV). Using peptide scanning and mutagenesis, the epitope was mapped to amino acids 21-32 (LVPEVNASDPLA) of the NV S domain, and its specificity was verified by epitope transfer and reactivity with a recombinant MAb NV10 single-chain variable fragment (scFv). Comparative structural modeling of the NV10 strain-specific and the broadly cross-reactive TV20 epitopes identified two internal non-overlapping sites in the NV shell, corresponding to variable and conserved amino acid sequences among strains, respectively. The S domain, like the P domain, contains strain-specific epitopes that contribute to the antigenic diversity among the noroviruses.

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Characterization of cross-reactive norovirus-specific monoclonal antibodies.

Noroviruses (NoVs) commonly cause acute gastroenteritis outbreaks. Broadly reactive diagnostic assays are essential for rapid detection of NoV infections. We previously generated a panel of broadly reactive monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). We characterized MAb reactivities by use of virus-like particles (VLPs) from 16 different NoV genotypes (6 from genogroup I [GI], 9 from GII, and 1 from GIV) coating a microtiter plate (direct enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA]) and by Western blotting. MAbs were genotype specific or recognized multiple genotypes within a genogroup and between genogroups. We next applied surface plasmon resonance (SPR) analysis to measure MAb dissociation constants (Kd) as a surrogate for binding affinity; a Kd level of <10 nM was regarded as indicating strong binding. Some MAbs did not interact with the VLPs by SPR analysis. To further assess this lack of MAb-VLP interaction, the MAbs were evaluated for the ability to identify NoV VLPs in a capture ELISA. Those MAbs for which a Kd could not be measured by SPR analysis also failed to capture the NoV VLPs; in contrast, those with a measurable Kd gave a positive signal in the capture ELISA. Thus, some broadly cross-reactive epitopes in the VP1 protruding domain may be partially masked on intact particles. One MAb, NV23, was able to detect genogroup I, II, and IV VLPs from 16 genotypes tested by sandwich ELISA, and it successfully detected NoVs in stool samples positive by real-time reverse transcription-PCR when the threshold cycle (CT) value was <31. Biochemical analyses of MAb reactivity, including SPR analysis, identified NV23 as a broadly reactive ligand for application in norovirus diagnostic assays.

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Mapping broadly reactive norovirus genogroup I and II monoclonal antibodies.

Noroviruses are responsible for most acute nonbacterial epidemic outbreaks of gastroenteritis worldwide. To develop cross-reactive monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) for rapid identification of genogroup I and II (GI and GII) noroviruses (NoVs) in field specimens, mice were immunized with baculovirus-expressed recombinant virus-like particles (VLPs) corresponding to NoVs. Nine MAbs against the capsid protein were identified that detected both GI and GII NoV VLPs. These MAbs were tested in competition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) to identify common epitope reactivities to GI and GII VLPs. Patterns of competitive reactivity placed these MAbs into two epitope groups (groups 1 and 2). Epitopes for MAbs NV23 and NS22 (group 1) and MAb F120 (group 2) were mapped to a continuous region in the C-terminal P1 subdomain of the capsid protein. This domain is within regions previously defined to contain cross-reactive epitopes in GI and GII viruses, suggesting that common epitopes are clustered within the P1 domain of the capsid protein. Further characterization in an accompanying paper (B. Kou et al., Clin Vaccine Immunol 22:160-167, 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00519-14) revealed that MAb NV23 (epitope group 1) is able to detect GI and GII viruses in stool. Inclusion of the GI and GII cross-reactive MAb NV23 in antigen detection assays may facilitate the identification of GI and GII human noroviruses in stool samples as causative agents of outbreaks and sporadic cases of gastroenteritis worldwide.

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Newly isolated mAbs broaden the neutralizing epitope in murine norovirus.

Here, we report the isolation and functional characterization of mAbs against two murine norovirus (MNV) strains, MNV-1 and WU20, which were isolated following oral infection of mice. The mAbs were screened for reactivity against the respective homologous and heterologous MNV strain by ELISA. Selected mAbs were of IgA, IgG1, IgG2a or IgG2b isotype and showed a range of Western blot reactivities from non-binding to strong binding, suggesting recognition of conformational and linear epitopes. Some of the anti-MNV-1 antibodies neutralized both MNV-1 and WU20 infections in culture and in mice, but none of the anti-WU20 mAbs neutralized either virus. The non-neutralizing anti-MNV-1 IgG2b antibody 5C4.10 was mapped to the S domain of the MNV-1 capsid, whilst the epitopes of the neutralizing anti-MNV-1 IgA antibodies 2D3.7 and 4F9.4 were mapped to the P domain. Generation of neutralization escape viruses showed that two mutations (V339I and D348E) in the C'D' loop of the MNV-1 P domain mediated escape from mAb 2D3.7 and 4F9.4 neutralization. These findings broaden the known neutralizing epitopes of MNV to the main surface-exposed loops of the P domain. In addition, the current panel of antibodies provides valuable reagents for studying norovirus biology and development of diagnostic tools.

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Flexibility in surface-exposed loops in a virus capsid mediates escape from antibody neutralization.

New human norovirus strains emerge every 2 to 3 years, partly due to mutations in the viral capsid that allow escape from antibody neutralization and herd immunity. To understand how noroviruses evolve antibody resistance, we investigated the structural basis for the escape of murine norovirus (MNV) from antibody neutralization. To identify specific residues in the MNV-1 protruding (P) domain of the capsid that play a role in escape from the neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb) A6.2, 22 recombinant MNVs were generated with amino acid substitutions in the A'B' and E'F' loops. Six mutations in the E'F' loop (V378F, A382K, A382P, A382R, D385G, and L386F) mediated escape from MAb A6.2 neutralization. To elucidate underlying structural mechanisms for these results, the atomic structure of the A6.2 Fab was determined and fitted into the previously generated pseudoatomic model of the A6.2 Fab/MNV-1 virion complex. Previously, two distinct conformations, A and B, of the atomic structures of the MNV-1 P domain were identified due to flexibility in the two P domain loops. A superior stereochemical fit of the A6.2 Fab to the A conformation of the MNV P domain was observed. Structural analysis of our observed escape mutants indicates changes toward the less-preferred B conformation of the P domain. The shift in the structural equilibrium of the P domain toward the conformation with poor structural complementarity to the antibody strongly supports a unique mechanism for antibody escape that occurs via antigen flexibility instead of direct antibody-antigen binding.

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Characterization of blockade antibody responses in GII.2.1976 Snow Mountain virus-infected subjects.

Snow Mountain virus (GII.2.1976) is the prototype strain of GII.2 noroviruses (NoVs), which cause an estimated 8% of norovirus outbreaks, yet little is known about the immunobiology of these viruses. To define the human immune response induced by SMV infection and the antigenic relationship between different GII.2 strains that have circulated between 1976 and 2010, we developed a panel of four GII.2 variant virus-like particles (VLPs) and compared their antigenicities by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and surrogate antibody neutralization (blockade) assays. Volunteers infected with GII.2.1976 developed a mean 167-fold increase in blockade response against the homotypic VLP by day 8 postchallenge. Blockade extended cross-genotype activity in some individuals but not cross-genogroup activity. Polyclonal sera from GII.2.1976-infected volunteers blocked GII.2.1976 significantly better than they blocked GII.2.2002, GII.2.2008, and GII.2.2010, suggesting that blockade epitopes within the GII.2 strains have evolved in the past decade. To potentially map these epitope changes, we developed mouse monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against GII.2.1976 VLPs and compared their reactivities to a panel of norovirus VLPs. One MAb had broad cross-genogroup EIA reactivity to a nonblockade, linear, conserved epitope. Six MAbs recognized conformational epitopes exclusive to the GII.2 strains. Two MAbs recognized GII.2 blockade epitopes, and both blocked the entire panel of GII.2 variants. These data indicate that the GII.2 strains, unlike the predominant GII.4 strains, have undergone only a limited amount of evolution in blockade epitopes between 1976 and 2010 and indicate that the GII.2-protective component of a multivalent norovirus vaccine may not require frequent reformulation.

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Identification of a Broadly Cross-Reactive Epitope in the Inner Shell of the Norovirus Capsid.

Noroviruses are major pathogens associated with acute gastroenteritis. They are diverse viruses, with at least six genogroups (GI-GVI) and multiple genotypes defined by differences in the major capsid protein, VP1. This diversity has challenged the development of broadly cross-reactive vaccines as well as efficient detection methods. Here, we report the characterization of a broadly cross-reactive monoclonal antibody (MAb) raised against the capsid protein of a GII.3 norovirus strain. The MAb reacted with VLPs and denatured VP1 protein from GI, GII, GIV and GV noroviruses, and mapped to a linear epitope located in the inner shell domain. An alignment of all available VP1 sequences showed that the putative epitope (residues 52-56) is highly conserved across the genus Norovirus. This broadly cross-reactive MAb thus constitutes a valuable reagent for the diagnosis and study of these diverse viruses.

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Development of Norwalk virus-specific monoclonal antibodies with therapeutic potential for the treatment of Norwalk virus gastroenteritis.

Passive immunoprophylaxis or immunotherapy with norovirus-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) could be a useful treatment for high-risk populations, including infants and young children, the elderly, and certain patients who are debilitated or immunocompromised. In order to obtain antinorovirus MAbs with therapeutic potential, we stimulated a strong adaptive immune response in chimpanzees to the prototype norovirus strain Norwalk virus (NV) (genogroup I.1). A combinatorial phage Fab display library derived from mRNA of the chimpanzees' bone marrow was prepared, and four distinct Fabs reactive with Norwalk recombinant virus-like particles (rVLPs) were recovered, with estimated binding affinities in the subnanomolar range. Mapping studies showed that the four Fabs recognized three different conformational epitopes in the protruding (P) domain of NV VP1, the major capsid protein. The epitope of one of the Fabs, G4, was further mapped to a specific site involving a key amino acid residue, Gly365. One additional specific Fab (F11) was recovered months later from immortalized memory B cells and partially characterized. The anti-NV Fabs were converted into full-length IgG (MAbs) with human γ1 heavy chain constant regions. The anti-NV MAbs were tested in the two available surrogate assays for Norwalk virus neutralization, which showed that the MAbs could block carbohydrate binding and inhibit hemagglutination by NV rVLP. By mixing a single MAb with live Norwalk virus prior to challenge, MAbs D8 and B7 neutralized the virus and prevented infection in a chimpanzee. Because chimpanzee immunoglobulins are virtually identical to human immunoglobulins, these chimpanzee anticapsid MAbs may have a clinical application.

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