Unbiased Identification of Immunogenic Staphylococcus aureus Leukotoxin B-Cell Epitopes

David N Hernandez, Kayan Tam, Bo Shopsin, Emily E Radke, Pegah Kolahi, Richard Copin, François-Xavier Stubbe, Timothy Cardozo, Victor J Torres, Gregg J Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unbiased identification of individual immunogenic B-cell epitopes in major antigens of a pathogen remains a technology challenge for vaccine discovery. We therefore developed a platform for rapid phage display screening of deep recombinant libraries consisting of as few as one major pathogen antigen. Using the bicomponent pore-forming leukocidin (Luk) exotoxins of the major pathogen Staphylococcus aureus as a prototype, we randomly fragmented and separately ligated the hemolysin gamma A (HlgA) and LukS genes into a custom-built phage display system, termed pComb-Opti8. Deep sequence analysis of barcoded amplimers of the HlgA and LukS gene fragment libraries demonstrated that biopannng against a cross-reactive anti-Luk monoclonal antibody (MAb) recovered convergent molecular clones with short overlapping homologous sequences. We thereby identified an 11-amino-acid sequence that is highly conserved in four Luk toxin subunits and is ubiquitous in representation within S. aureus clinical isolates. The isolated 11-amino-acid peptide probe was predicted to retain the native three-dimensional (3D) conformation seen within the Luk holotoxin. Indeed, this peptide was recognized by the selecting anti-Luk MAb, and, using mutated peptides, we showed that a particular amino acid side chain was essential for these interactions. Furthermore, murine immunization with this peptide elicited IgG responses that were highly reactive with both the autologous synthetic peptide and the full-length Luk toxin homologues. Thus, using a gene fragment- and phage display-based pipeline, we have identified and validated immunogenic B-cell epitopes that are cross-reactive between members of the pore-forming leukocidin family. This approach could be harnessed to identify novel epitopes for a much-needed S. aureus-protective subunit vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00785-19
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Staphylococcus aureus/immunology
  • Antibodies
  • Genomics
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Epitope Mapping
  • Epitopes, B-Lymphocyte
  • Exotoxins
  • Immunoglobulin G/blood
  • Mice
  • Peptide Library
  • Vaccines
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Antibody repertoire
  • Epitope
  • B-cell epitope
  • Phage display
  • Leukocidin
  • Protection
  • Antibody function


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