Mol Immunol. 2021 Apr 16;135:45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2021.03.028. Online ahead of print.
Staphylococcus aureus (SA), especially the methicillin-resistant variant (MRSA), is becoming a serious threat to human health in hospitals and communities, making the development of an effective vaccine urgent. Alpha-hemolysin (Hla) is a key virulence factor and also a good target for the development of SA vaccines. However, the epitopes in Hla recognized by human immunity are not characterized in detail, which hinders the design of epitope-based human vaccines against SA. In this study, we collected sera from volunteers in a phase 1b clinical trial of a novel recombinant five-antigen SA vaccine (NCT03966040). Using a Luminex-based assay, we characterized the human serologic response against Hla, and identified Hla121-138 as a neutralizing epitope. In addition, we successfully produced ferritin nanoparticles carrying the neutralizing Hla121-138 epitope (EpNP) in E. coli. EpNP presented as homogenous nanoparticles in aqueous solution. Immunization with EpNP elicited potent hemolysis-neutralizing antibodies and conferred significant protection in a mouse model of SA skin infection. Our data suggest that EpNP, carrying the neutralizing epitope Hla121-138, is a good candidate for a vaccine against SA.