Construction of a hepatitis B virus neutralizing chimeric monoclonal antibody recognizing escape mutants of the viral surface antigen (HBsAg)

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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a global burden on the health-care system and is considered as the tenth leading cause of death in the world. Over 248 million patients are currently suffering from chronic HBV infection worldwide and annual mortality rate of this infection is 686000. The “a” determinant is a hydrophilic region present in all antigenic subtypes of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and antibodies against this region can neutralize the virus and are protective against all subtypes. We have recently generated a murine anti-HBs monoclonal antibody (4G4), which can neutralize HBV infection in HepaRG cells and recognize most of the escape mutant forms of HBsAg. Here, we describe the production and characterization of the chimeric human-murine antibody 4G4 (c-4G4). Variable region genes of heavy and light chains of the m-4G4 were cloned and fused to constant regions of human kappa and IgG1 by splice overlap extension (SOE) PCR. The chimeric antibody was expressed in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO)-K1 cells and purified from culture supernatant. Competition ELISA proved that both antibodies bind the same epitope within HBsAg. Antigen-binding studies using ELISA and Western blot showed that c-4G4 has retained the affinity and specificity of the parental murine antibody, and displayed a similar pattern of reactivity to 13 escape mutant forms of HBsAg. Both, the parental and c-4G4 showed a comparably high HBV neutralization capacity in cell culture even at the lowest concentration (0.6μg/ml). Due to the ability of c-4G4 to recognize most of the sub-genotypes and escape mutants of HBsAg, this antibody either alone or in combination with other anti-HBs antibodies could be considered as a potent alternative for Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) as an HBV infection prophylactic or for passive immunotherapy against HBV infection.HighlightsA novel chimeric human-murine monoclonal antibody (c-4G4) against HBsAg were produced and characterized.c-4G4 showed a high HBV neutralization capacity in HepG2-NTCP cells, which are susceptible to HBV infection.c-4G4 was capable of recognizing multiple escape mutants of HBsAg.

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