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Virus-like particles (VLPs), composed of the small hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAgS), are the antigenic components of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine and represent the backbones for a chimeric anti-malaria vaccine and various vaccine candidates. Biological vectors have to face pre-existing anti-vector immune responses due to previous immune exposure. Vector recognition after natural infections or vaccinations can result in unwarranted outcomes, with compromising effects on clinical outcomes. In order to evaluate the impact of a pre-existing anti-HBsAgS immune response, we developed mutant VLPs composed of subunits with reduced HBsAgS-specific antigenicity. The insertion of a Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CSP)-derived epitope as a read-out allowed the assessment of wild type (wt) and mutant VLPs in the context of a pre-existing immune response. Mutant and wt VLP platforms with a CSP-epitope insert are immunogenic and have the ability to generate anti-CSP antibody responses in both naïve BALB/c mice and mice with a pre-existing anti-HBsAgS immune response, but with superior anti-CSP responses in mice with a pre-existing immunity. The data indicate that previous HBsAgS exposure facilitates enhanced antibody responses against foreign epitopes delivered by the HBsAgS platform, and, in this context, the state of immune sensitization alters the outcome of subsequent vaccinations.

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delivery platforms, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), immune sensitization, vectored vaccines, Animals, Mice, Epitopes, Hepatitis B Surface Antigens, Immunogenicity, Vaccine, Malaria, Malaria Vaccines, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Models, Animal, Plasmodium falciparum, Vaccination, Vaccines, Virus-Like Particle