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1. (WO1990006951) MUTANTS DE PNEUMOLYSINE ET VACCINS CONTRE LE PNEUMOCOQUE OBTENUS A PARTIR DE TELS MUTANTS
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PNEUMOLYSIN MUTANTS AND PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINES
MADE THEREFROM

This invention relates to mutants of the toxin pneumolysin and
pneumococcal vaccines based on these mutants.

BACKGROUND
Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is an important pathogen, causing invasive diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia. Even in regions where effective antibiotic therapy is freely available, the mortality rate from pneumococcal pneumonia can be as high as 19% in hospitalized patients and this increases to 30-40% in patients with bacteraemia. These high mortality rates have been reported in the U.S.A. where pneumonia, of which S. pneumoniae is the commonest cause, is the fifth ranking cause of death. Indeed, pneumonia is the only infectious disease amongst the top ten causes of death in that country. In the United States mortality rates for
pneumococcal meningitis range from 13-45%. In developing countries, in excess of 3 million children under the age of 5 years die each year from pneumonia, and again S. pneumoniae is the commonest causative agent. S. pneumoniae also causes less serious, but highly prevalent infections such as otitis media and sinusitis, which have a significant impact on health-care costs in developed countries. Otitis media is especially important in young children; sinusitis affects both children and adults.

In the late 1970's, a vaccine was licensed for the purpose of preventing serious infections, especially bacterial pneumonia and for protecting certain groups, such as spienectomized individuals and young children, who are particularly susceptible to fulminating pneumococcal disease. The vaccine is composed of purified capsular polysaccharides, which are the predominant pneumococcal surface antigens. However, each serotype of S. pneumoniae (of which there are 83) has a structurally distinct capsular polysaccharide, and immunization with one serotype confers no protection whatsoever against the vast majority of the others. The vaccine currently licensed in Australia contains polysaccharides purified from the 23 most common serotypes, which account for approximately 90% of pneumococcal infections in this country.

Protection even against those serotypes contained in the vaccine is by no means complete, and there have been several reports of serious, even fatal infections occurring in vaccinated high-risk individuals. The efficacy of the vaccine is poorest in young children, and several studies, including one conducted in Adelaide, have shown that the existing formulation has little or no demonstrable clinical benefit in this group. This apparent failure of the vaccine appears to be related to the poor immunogenicity of certain pneumococcal polysaccharides in children under 5 years of age. We have shown that the antibody response is particularly poor to the five serotypes which most commonly cause disease in children (types 6, 14, 18, 19 and 23). Indeed, the antibody response to these pneumococcal polysaccharides only approaches adult levels in children over 8 years of age at the time of vaccination.

In view of this, a vaccine, including antigens other than the capsular polysaccharides seems to be required to protect young children from pneumococcal infection. One such antigen could be pneumolysin, a protein toxin produced by all virulent S. pneumoniae isolates.
Immunization of mice with this protein has been found to confer a degree of protection from pneumococcal infection.

However there is a difficulty in that pneumolysin is toxic to humans. Thus pneumolysin included in a vaccine must therefore be substantially non-toxic. However, the rendering of a pneumolysin non-toxic by most currently employed methods would be likely to alter the basic
configuration of the protein so as to be immunogenically distinct from the native or wild-type pneumolysin. An immune response elicited by an altered protein that is immunogenically distinct from the native pneumolysin will have a decreased protective capacity or no protective capacity. Thus the difficulty is to produce an altered pneumolysin that is non-toxic and at the same time sufficiently immunogenically similar to the toxic form to elicit a protective immune response.

An altered pneumolysin with the above characteristics can then be used in a number of ways in a vaccine. Thus the altered pneumolysin may be used by itself to immunise, or alternatively the altered
pneumolysin may be conjugated to pneumococcal polysaccharide, or alternatively may be included in a vaccine wherein pneumococcal polysaccharides may be conjugated to another protein and the altered pneumolysin is present in a non-conjugated form only. Alternatively, pneumococcal polysaccharide and pneumolysin may both be used in an unconjugated form.

DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION
In a broad form therefore the invention may be said to reside in an altered pneumolysin being substantially non-toxic and being capable of eliciting an immune response in an animal being reactive to wild-type pneumolysin.

Preferably the altered pneumolysin has reduced complement binding activity as compared to wild-type pneumolysin. Reduction in the complement binding activity results in less inflammation at the site of administering the vaccine.

Preferably the altered pneumolysin has reduced Fc binding activity as compared to wild-type pneumolysin. Reduction in the Fc binding activity results in less inflamation at the site of administering the vaccine.

Preferably the altered pneumolysin is altered by reason of one or more amino acid substitutions relative to wild-type pneumolysin.

The pneumolysin may be altered in that the amino acid present at any one or more than one of residue sites 367, 384, 385, 428, 433 or 435 of wild-type pneumolysin are replaced, removed or blocked.

In a further form the invention could be said to reside in a vaccine including an altered pneumolysin, said altered pneumolysin being non-toxic and being capable of eliciting an immune response in an animal being reactive to wild-type pneumolysin.

Preferably the vaccine comprises capsular polysaccharide material conjugated with the altered pneumolysin.

The capsular material may be derived from any one or more of the Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes 6A, 6B, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F, 23F, 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11 A, 12F, 15B, 17F, 20, 22F and 33F.

In this embodiment serotypes which are commonly associated with disease in children, and to which children generally have a poor immune response, may be specifically targeted (i.e. Danish serotypes 6A, 6B, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F and 23F). Other common serotypes contained in the present 23-valent Merck Sharp and Dohme vaccine (Pneumovax 23) however, could also be used to synthesize conjugates (i.e. types 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11A, 12F, 15B, 17F, 20, 22F and 33F) or indeed any other serotype. Conjugation of any
pneumococcal polysaccharides to the protein carrier ensures good T-cell dependent immunogenicity in children, such that protective levels of anti-polysaccharide antibody are produced.

The combination of the altered pneumolysin together with the capsular material will ensure an extra degree of protection, particularly against serotypes of S. pneumoniae whose polysaccharides are not
incorporated in the existing vaccine formulations.

The vaccine is preferably administered by sub-cutaneous injection, with or without an approved adjuvant, such as alumina gel.

In another form the invention could be said to reside in a recombinant clone including a replicon and a DNA sequence encoding an altered pneumolysin, said altered pneumolysin being non-toxic and being capable of eliciting an immune response in an animal being reactive to wild-type pneumolysin.

In yet another form the invention could be said to reside in a method of producing an altered pneumolysin including the steps of purifying said altered pneumolysin from an expression system including a
recombinant clone with DNA encoding an altered pneumolysin said pneumolysin being substantially non-toxic and being capable of eliciting an immune response in an animal reactive to wild-type pneumolysin.

Preferrably the expression system is a culture of a host cell including a recombinant clone with DNA encoding the altered pneumolysin.

In another form the invention could be said to reside in a method of producing a vaccine including the step of amplifying a recombinant clone encoding an altered pneumolysin, inducing transcription and translation of said cloned material, the purification of altered
pneumolysin, and the step of conjugating the altered pneumolysin with a capsular polysaccharide, the altered pneumolysin having
substantially reduced toxic activity as compared with wild-type pneumolysin.

For a better understanding of the invention specific embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to diagrams wherein:-

FIG. 1 Is the DNA sequence of the gene encoding wild-type pneumolysin,

FIG. 2 Is the DNA sequence of an altered gene encoding wild type pneumoltsin used for cloning the pneumolysin gene into an expression vector,

FIG.3 Is the amino acid sequence of the wild-type pneumolysin as derived from the DNA sequence of the gene encoding the wild type pneumolysin, and

FIG.4 shows the amino acid sequence of pneumolysin showing amino acid substitutions introduced by site directed mutagenesis.

Recombinant DNA techniques have been used to construct non-toxic pneumolysin derivatives suitable for administration to humans. To achieve this, the S. pneumoniae gene encoding pneumolysin was cloned into Escherichia coli and its complete DNA sequence
determined. The DNA sequence is shown in Figure 1 and the derived amino acid sequence is shown in Figure 3.

Three regions of the pneumolysin gene were subjected to
oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. The first region encodes amino acids 427 - 437 in the protein sequence, and is indicated by an underline in Figure 3. This 11 amino acid sequence shows absolute homology with similar regions in other related thiol activeted toxins thus is thought to be responsible for the haemolytic acitivity and hence toxic activity of the toxin. The other two regions encode amino acids 257 - 297 and amino acids 368 - 397 and are also indicated by an underline in Figure 3. These two regions of the toxin have substantial amino acid sequence homology with human C-reactive protein (CRP), and by inference therefore, are thought to be responsible for the ability of pneumolysin to bind the Fc region of immunoglobulins and to activate complement. Fifteen separate mutations in the pneumolysin gene, resulting in single amino acid substitutions, were constructed, as shown in Figure 4. In an effort to maintain the structure of the altered pneumolysin, conservative substitutions were made, so that amino acids are substituted with amino acids of a similar nature.

For the region involved in haemolytic activity, Cys 428 -> Gly, Cys 428 -> Ser, T 433 -> Phe, GIU434 -> Asp and T 435 -> Phe each reduced haemolytic activity by 97%, 90%, 99%, 75% and 90% respectively. The other mutations in that region (Cys42β -> Ala, GIU434 -> Gin and Trp 436 ->Phe) did not affect haemolytic activity. Mutating a separate region of the toxin thought to be responsible for binding to target cell membranes also affects haemolytic activity of the protein. This substitution, HiS367 -> Arg, completely inhibits haemolytic activity. This is a quite
unpredictable finding in that HiS367 -> Arg therefore shows a greater inhibition of this property than the substitutions made within the 11 amino acid region thought to be responsible for haemolytic activity.

Mutations in the CRP-like domains were tested for ability to activate complement. For TΦ379 -> Phe, Tyr384- Phe, Asp385 -> Asn, and T 397 -> Phe, complement activation was reduced by 20%, 70%, 100% and 15%, respectively. The other mutations in the CRP-like domains shown in Figure 4 do not reduce complement activation.

Importantly, the above mutations which affect either haemolytic activity or complement activation do not impair the immunogenicity of the proteins, compared with native or wild-type pneumolysin.

Thus although His3β7 -> Arg is the preferred mutation to reduce the haemolytic activity, a combination of two or more mutants effecting reduced haemolytic activity can also achieve a very high level of reduction in haemolytic activity. Similarly Asp385 -> Asn is the prefered mutation to achieve reduced complement activation, however a combination of two or more other mutants that reduce the activity to a lesser degree can also be used.

In a preferred embodiment the pneumolysin derivative for use in the vaccine would contain a combination of certain of the above mutations such that the protein is unable to activate complement in addition to having zero haemolytic activity. Examples of such combination are:- ) HiS367 -> Arg + Asp385-> Asn,
2) His 367 -> Arg + Asp3β5 -> Asn + either Cys428 -> Gly or
Trp 33 -> Phe
3) Asp385 -> Asn + Cy≤428 -> Gly + Tφ.433 -> Phe

These then are some preferred combinations, however it is to be understood that other combinations of mutations can be used to make up the altered pneumolysin for use in a vaccine. Further the altered pneumolysin may comprise any one of the individual mutations with sufficiently reduced activity.

High level expression of the altered pneumolysin from DNA encoding the altered pneumolysin can be achieved by using any one of a number of conventional techniques including the expression in a prokaryotic host with the DNA cloned appropriately within any one of the many expression vectors currently available, or cloned appropriately within the host chromosome; expression in a eukaryotic host with the DNA cloned appropriately either within an expression vector or cloned within the host chromosome; or within an in vitro expression system such as may comprise purified components necessary for expression of altered pneumolysin.

To achieve high level expression of the mutated pneumolysin gene, it has been cloned into the vector pKK233-2 for expression within
Escherichia coli or other like prokaryote. This vector included ampicillin and tetracycline resistance genes, the trc promoter (which can be regulated by IPTG [isopropyl-β-D-thiogalactopyranoside]), and a lac Z ribosome binding site adjacent to an ATG initiation codon incorporating an Nco\ restriction site. Immediately downstream from the initiation codon there are restriction sites for Psti and Hind W, followed by a strong Ti T2 transcription terminator. Prior to insertion into pKK233-2, a Nco\ restriction site was constructed at the 5' end of the pneumolysin coding sequence (at the initiation codon) by oligonucleotide-directed
mutagenesis, as shown in Figure 2. This enabled the proximal end of the altered pneumolysin gene to be cloned into the Λ/col site of pKK233-2; a HindUl site approximately 80 bases downstream from the pneumolysin termination codon was used to splice the distal end of the altered gene into the compatible site in pKK233-2. The mutant pneumolysin derivative could however, be cloned into any one of a number of high expression vector systems.

The mutant pneumolysin is prepared as follows: E. coli cells harbouring the above recombinant plasmid are first grown in 9 litre cultures in Luria Bertani (or any other appropriate) medium, supplemented with the appropriate antibiotic, at 37° C, with aeration. When the culture reaches the late logarithmic phase of growth, IPTG is added to a final
concentration of 20μM (to induce expression of the altered pneumolysin gene) and incubation is continued for a further 2 to 3 hours.

Cells are then harvested by centrifugation or ultrafiltration and lysed by treatment with EDTA and lysozyme, followed by sonication, or by disruption in a French pressure cell. Cell debris is removed by centrifugation and the extract is then dialysed extensively against 10mM sodium phosphate (pH7.0). The material is then loaded onto a column of DEAE-cellulose and eluted with a linear gradient of 10- 250mM sodium phosphate (pH7.0). Fractions containing peak levels of the pneumolysin derivative are pooled, concentrated by ultrafiltration and loaded onto a column of Sephacryl S-200. This column is developed in 50mM sodium phosphate (pH7.0) and again fractions with high levels of pneumolysin derivative are pooled, concentrated by ultrafiltration and stored in 50% glycerol at -15°C. The final product is greater than 95% pure, as judged by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Hydrophobic interaction chromatography on Phenyl-Sepharose is an alternative purification which could also be used. However it is to be understood that this is only one method of purification of the altered pneumolysin, and other, alternative methods (including High Pressure Liquid Chromatography) may be employed.

This purified altered pneumolysin can then be administered as a vaccine at appropriate levels, either by itself or in combination with other antigens. In one form the pneumolysin may be conjugated with polysaccharide derived from any one or more of the variety of pneumococcal strains described above.

The mutant pneumolysin can be conjugated to the various serotypes of polysaccharide by a range of methods. The first involves preparation of an activated polysaccharide by treating pure polysaccharide (available commercially) with cyanogen-bromide and adipicacid dihydrzide (ADH). The ADH-polysaccharide is then combined with the mutant pneumolysin in the presence of 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide - HCI. Conjugated material is separated from the reactants by chromatography through Sepharose CL-4B.

Alternatively, the polysaccharide-mutant pneumolysin conjugates can be prepared using bifunctional reagents such as N-succinimidyl-6(4'-azido-2'-nitrophenylamino)hexanoate (SANPAH). Pure polysaccharide dissolved in phosphate buffered saline, is reacted with SANPAH in the presence of a strong white light source. Unreacted SANPAH is then separated from activated polysaccharide by chromatography on Sephadex G-50. Activated polysaccharide is then conjugated to the mutant pneumolysin in 0.2M borate buffer (pH8.5). Any excess reactive groups are then blocked with lysine, and the polysaccharide-protein conjugate is separated from the other reactants by chromatography on Sepharose CL-4B. Conjugates could also be prepared by reductive amination with cyanoborohydride.

Alternatively another protein, such as inactivated tetanus toxin, can be conjugated with the desired polysaccharides and altered pneumolysin can be added to the vaccine in an unconjugated form.

This then describes the best method of performing the invention however it is to be understood that the invention is not limited thereto.