The development of vaccines employing conserved protein antigens, for instance ribosomal protein P0, has as disadvantage the high degree of identity between pathogen and host proteins due to possible induction of tolerance or auto antibodies in the host organism. To overcome this drawback, peptide-based vaccines have been designed with a proved high efficacy. The use of defined peptides as antigens has the problem that they are generally poor immunogenic unless coupled to a carrier protein. Several studies have established the potential for promiscuous T cell epitopes incorporated into chimeric peptides to enhance the immunogenicity in mammals. On the contrary, studies about the role of these epitopes on teleost immune system are scarce. Therefore, the main objective of our present study was to evaluate the potential of promiscuous T cell epitopes to boost specific IgM immune response in teleost fish against a peptide antigen. With this aim, we used a peptide of 35 amino acids from the ribosomal P0 protein of Lepeophtheirus salmonis, an important parasite in salmon aquaculture. We fused this peptide to the C-terminal of T cell epitopes from tetanus toxin and measles virus and produced the chimeric protein in Escherichia coli. Following vaccination, IgM antibody production was monitored in different immunization schemes in Tilapia, African catfish and Atlantic salmon. The results demonstrated for first time that the addition of T cell epitopes at the N-terminal of a target peptide increased IgM specific response in different teleost species, revealing the potential of this approach to develop peptide-based vaccines for aquaculture. The results are also of great importance in the context of vaccine development against sea lice using ribosomal protein P0 as antigen taking into account the key role of P0 in protein synthesis and other essential physiological processes.
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