Vaccination with Prion Peptide-Displaying Polyomavirus-Like Particles Prolongs Incubation Time in Scrapie-Infected Mice
Prion diseases like scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) in humans are fatal neurodegenerative diseases characterized by the conformational conversion of the normal, mainly -helical cellular prion protein (PrPC) into the abnormal -sheet rich infectious isoform PrPSc. Various therapeutic or prophylactic approaches have been conducted, but no approved therapeutic treatment is available so far. Immunisation against prions is hampered by the self-tolerance to PrPC in mammalian species. One strategy to avoid this tolerance is presenting PrP variants in virus-like particles (VLPs). Therefore, we vaccinated C57/BL6 mice with nine prion peptide variants presented by hamster polyomavirus capsid protein VP1/VP2-derived VLPs. Mice were subsequently challenged intraperitoneally with the murine RML prion strain. Importantly, one group exhibited significantly increased mean survival time of 240 days post-inoculation compared with 202 days of the control group. These data show that immunisation with VLPs presenting PrP peptides may represent a promising strategy for an effective vaccination against transmissible spongiform encephalitis agents.