Vaccine platforms that can be flexibly loaded with antigens can contribute to decrease response time to emerging infections. For many pathogens and chronic infections, induction of a robust cytotoxic T lymphocytes-mediated response is desirable to control infection. Antigen delivery into the cytoplasm of antigen presenting cells favors induction of cytotoxic T cells. By fusion of the cell-permeable translocation motif (TLM)-peptide to the capsid-forming core protein of hepatitis B virus, and by insertion of the strep-tag in the spike tip (a domain that protrudes from the surface of the capsid), cell-permeable carrier capsids were generated that can be flexibly loaded with various antigens. Loading with antigens was demonstrated by electron microscopy, density gradient centrifugation and surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy. Confocal immunofluorescence microscopy showed that cell-permeable carrier capsids mediate transfer of cargo antigen into the cytoplasm. Using cell-permeable carrier capsids loaded with ovalbumin as model antigen, activation of antigen presenting cells and ovalbumin-specific CD8+ T-cells, which correlates with enhanced specific killing activity, was found. This demonstrates the capacity of TLM-carrier-capsids to serve as universal antigen carrier to deliver antigens into the cytoplasm of antigen presenting cells, which leads to enhanced MHC class I-mediated presentation and induction of antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes response.
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