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Chimeric Hepatitis B core antigen virus-like particles displaying the envelope domain III of dengue virus type 2

Upasana Arora, Poornima Tyagi, Sathyamangalam Swaminathan* and Navin Khanna*

Author Affiliations

Recombinant Gene Products Group, International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi, 110067, India

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2012, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-10-30

Published: 13 July 2012



Dengue is a global public health problem for which no drug or vaccine is available. Currently, there is increasing interest in developing non-replicating dengue vaccines based on a discrete antigenic domain of the major structural protein of dengue viruses (DENVs), known as envelope domain III (EDIII). The use of bio-nanoparticles consisting of recombinant viral structural polypeptides, better known as virus-like particles (VLPs), has emerged as a potential platform technology for vaccine development. This work explores the feasibility of developing nanoparticles based on E. coli-expressed recombinant Hepatitis B virus core antigen (HBcAg) designed to display EDIII moiety of DENV on the surface.


We designed a synthetic gene construct encoding HBcAg containing an EDIII insert in its c/e1 loop. The fusion antigen HBcAg-EDIII-2 was expressed in E. coli, purified to near homogeneity using Ni+2 affinity chromatography and demonstrated to assemble into discrete 35–40 nm VLPs by electron microscopy. Competitive ELISA analyses showed that the EDIII-2 moieties of the VLPs are accessible to anti-EDIII-2-specific monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, suggesting that they are surface-displayed. The VLPs were highly immunogenic eliciting high titer anti-EDIII-2 antibodies that were able to recognize, bind and neutralize infectious DENV based on ELISA, immunofluorescence and virus-neutralization assays.


This work demonstrates that HBcAg-derived nanoparticles can serve as a useful platform for the display of DENV EDIII. The EDIII-displaying nanoparticles may have potential applications in diagnostics/vaccines for dengue.