One method to improve the immunogenicity of polysaccharide antigens is the covalent coupling of the native polysaccharide or a derivative oligosaccharide to a carrier protein. In general, T cell-dependent properties are enhanced in conjugates of smaller saccharides, but a conformational epitope of the native polysaccharide may be better expressed in conjugates of larger saccharides. We have reported previously the synthesis and immunogenicity in animals of an oligosaccharide-tetanus toxoid conjugate vaccine against type III group B Streptococcus. In this study, we sought to determine the optimal size of group B Streptococcus type III oligosaccharide for use in a conjugate vaccine by evaluating the relative immunogenicity of conjugate vaccines containing oligosaccharides that were twofold smaller (7,000 Mr) or larger (27,000 Mr) than that reported previously (14,500 Mr). All three type III oligosaccharide conjugate vaccines were immunogenic in rabbits, in contrast to native, uncoupled group B Streptococcus type III polysaccharide. However, with respect to eliciting specific antibodies that were protective in vivo, the vaccine containing the intermediate-size oligosaccharide was superior to the smaller or larger conjugate vaccine. Analysis of opsonic activity of vaccine-induced antibodies demonstrated a predominance of IgG antibodies, thought to reflect T cell dependence, in response to shorter chain length conjugates, while the conformational epitope of the native polysaccharide was maximally expressed on longer chain length conjugates. These opposing trends may account for the optimal immunogenicity of an intermediate-size group B Streptococcus type III oligosaccharide conjugate vaccine.


L C Paoletti, D L Kasper, F Michon, J DiFabio, H J Jennings, T D Tosteson, M R Wessels


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