Broadly neutralizing antibodies directed against the conserved stalk domain of the viral hemagglutinin have attracted increasing attention in recent years. However, only a limited number of stalk antibodies directed against group 2 influenza hemagglutinins have been isolated so far. Also, little is known about the general level of induction of these antibodies by influenza virus vaccination or infection. To characterize the anti-stalk humoral response in the mouse model as well as in humans, chimeric hemagglutinin constructs previously developed in our group were employed in serological assays. Whereas influenza virus infection induced high titers of stalk-reactive antibodies, immunization with inactivated influenza virus vaccines failed to do so in the mouse model. Analysis of serum samples collected from human individuals who were infected by influenza viruses also revealed the induction of stalk-reactive antibodies. Finally, we show that the hemagglutinin stalk-directed antibodies induced in mice and humans have broad reactivity and neutralizing activity in vitro and in vivo. The results of the study point toward the existence of highly conserved epitopes in the stalk domains of group 2 hemagglutinins, which can be targeted for the development of a universal influenza virus vaccine in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science