A murine genital-challenge model is a sensitive measure of protective antibodies against human papillomavirus infection.
Longet S., Schiller JT., Bobst M., Jichlinski P., Nardelli-Haefliger D.
The available virus-like particle (VLP)-based prophylactic vaccines against specific human papillomavirus (HPV) types afford close to 100% protection against the type-associated lesions and disease. Based on papillomavirus animal models, it is likely that protection against genital lesions in humans is mediated by HPV type-restricted neutralizing antibodies that transudate or exudate at the sites of genital infection. However, a correlate of protection was not established in the clinical trials because few disease cases occurred, and true incident infection could not be reliably distinguished from the emergence or reactivation of prevalent infection. In addition, the current assays for measuring vaccine-induced antibodies, even the gold standard HPV pseudovirion (PsV) in vitro neutralization assay, may not be sensitive enough to measure the minimum level of antibodies needed for protection. Here, we characterize the recently developed model of genital challenge with HPV PsV and determine the minimal amounts of VLP-induced neutralizing antibodies that can afford protection from genital infection in vivo after transfer into recipient mice. Our data show that serum antibody levels >100-fold lower than those detectable by in vitro PsV neutralization assays are sufficient to confer protection against an HPV PsV genital infection in this model. The results clearly demonstrate that, remarkably, the in vivo assay is substantially more sensitive than in vitro PsV neutralization and thus may be better suited for studies to establish correlates of protection.