Michael J. Conway, Linda Cruz, Samina Alam, Neil David Christensen, Craig Meyers
Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) capsids are composed of 72 pentamers of the major capsid protein L1, and an unknown number of L2 minor capsid proteins. An N-terminal “external loop” of L2 contains cross-neutralizing epitopes, and native HPV16 virions extracted from 20-day-old organotypic tissues are neutralized by anti-HPV16 L2 antibodies but virus from 10-day-old cultures are not, suggesting that L2 epitopes are more exposed in mature, 20-day virions.
This current study was undertaken to determine whether cross-neutralization of other HPV types is similarly dependent on time of harvest and to screen for the most effective cross-neutralizing epitope in native virions.
Methodology and Principal Findings: Neutralization assays support that although HPV16 L2 epitopes were only exposed in 20-day virions, HPV31 or HPV18 epitopes behaved differently.Instead, HPV31 and HPV18 L2 epitopes were exposed in 10-day virions andremained so in 20-day virions. In contrast, presumably due to sequence divergence, HPV45 was not cross-neutralized by any of the anti-HPV16 L2 antibodies. We found that the most effective cross-neutralizing antibody was a polyclonal antibody named anti-P56/75 #1, which was raised against a
peptide consisting of highly conserved HPV16 L2 amino acids 56 to 75.
Conclusions and Significance: This is the first study to determine the susceptibility of multiple, native high-risk HPV types to neutralization by L2 antibodies. Multiple anti-L2 antibodies were able to cross-neutralize HPV16, HPV31, and HPV18. Only neutralization of HPV16 depended on the time of tissue harvest. These data should inform attempts to produce a second-generation, L2-based vaccine.