• Visit the USI website
  • Go back to the homepage

Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina

Via Vincenzo Vela 6 - CH-6500 Bellinzona
Tel. +41 91 820 0300 - Fax +41 91 820 0302 - info [at] irb [dot] usi [dot] ch

HCMV Envelope Glycoprotein Diversity

Research area: Immune Regulation


Status: In progress

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the viral leading cause of congenital birth defects and is responsible for important morbidity and mortality in immunosuppressed individuals. Considerable efforts were deployed in the last decade to develop a vaccine capable of preventing HCMV infection. However, in recent clinical trials, vaccines showed at best modest efficacy in preventing infection. These findings were in part explained by the high level of sequence polymorphism at the genomic level. We investigated if genomic variation also leads to antigenic variation, and performed a bioinformatics sequence analysis to measure the percentage of conservation at the amino acid level of all the proteins present in the virion envelope. We observed that antigenic variation is in large part limited to only three proteins and demonstrated that the two leading vaccine candidates are well conserved at the amino acid level. These results suggest that despite genomic polymorphism, antigenic variability is not involved in the modest efficacy observed in the recent clinical trials for an HCMV vaccine.

Sequence alignment of the HCMV gB complex. Protein sequences aligned with Clustal Ω. All amino acids different from the reference HCMV strain (Merlin) are highlighted in red