Capsids of the B19 parvovirus are composed of major (VP2; 58 kD) and minor (VP1; 83 kD) structural proteins. These proteins are identical except for a unique 226 amino acid region at the amino terminus of VP1. Previous immunization studies with recombinant empty capsids have demonstrated that the presence of VP1 was required to elicit virus-neutralizing antibody activity. However, to date, neutralizing epitopes have been identified only on VP2. Crystallographic studies of a related parvovirus (canine parvovirus) suggested the unique amino-terminal portion of VP1 assumed an internal position within the viral capsid. To determine the position of VP1 in both empty capsids and virions, we expressed a fusion protein containing the unique region of VP1. Antisera raised to this protein recognized recombinant empty capsids containing VP1 and VP2, but not those containing VP2 alone, in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The antisera immunoprecipitated both recombinant empty capsids and human plasma-derived virions, and agglutinated the latter as shown by immune electron microscopy. The sera contained potent neutralizing activity for virus infectivity in vitro. These data indicate that a portion of the amino terminus of VP1 is located on the virion surface, and that this region contains intrinsic neutralizing determinants. The external location of the VP1-specific tail may provide a site for engineered heterologous epitope presentation in novel recombinant vaccines.
S J Rosenfeld, K Yoshimoto, S Kajigaya, S Anderson, N S Young, A Field, P Warrener, G Bansal, M S Collett