Genetic diversity of the Pneumococcal CbpA: Implications for next-generation vaccine development.
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Pneumococci are capable of vaccine escape by genetic recombination at the targeted capsular locus, significantly reducing long-term vaccine effectiveness. Recently, efforts have been redirected to understanding pneumococcal biology related to potential next-generation vaccine candidates. A variety of serotype-independent protein antigens capable of inducing protective immune responses in tissue culture and animal models of infection have been identified. However, ideal vaccine candidates that are conserved across all genotypes, provide broad population coverage, and induce T-cell dependent immune responses are still under investigation. We examined whether immune responses due to the highly polymorphic CbpA antigen are due to a conserved domain capable of evoking specific immune "memory" across all genotypes of pneumococci. We defined the genotypes in a global dataset of 213 pneumococcal isolates. This isolate collection was genotypically diverse and ideal for establishing the presence of conserved CbpA epitopes as potential protein vaccine candidates. Examination of the CbpA locus sequence was highly polymorphic at both the nucleic acid and amino acid level. Despite this high polymorphism some domains are broadly conserved and consist of different amino acid residues with the same physicochemical properties, and therefore have similar tertiary structures. The two most common domains identified in the CbpA gene are modular teichoic acid phosphorylcholine esterase Pce (2bib:A), and R2 domain (1w9r:A). These conserved domains are immunogenic, therefore capable of inducing long-term host immune responses; moreover they are extracellularly located and thus accessible. We proposed their evaluation as suitable next-generation CbpA-fusion protein vaccine candidates.