Protective immunity to rabbit oral and cutaneous papillomaviruses by immunization with short peptides of L2, the minor capsid protein

Monica E. Embers, Lynn R. Budgeon, Martin Pickel, Neil D. Christensen

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100 Scopus citations


The papillomavirus minor capsid protein, L2, has been shown to exhibit immunogenicity, whereby a variety of B-cell epitopes, predominantly in the amino terminus of L2, have been deduced. However, immunity to L2 in vivo has not been examined extensively. Notably, a common neutralization epitope for human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 16 was mapped to amino acids (aa) 108 to 120. The objectives of this study were to derive antisera from rabbits using the corresponding sequences from rabbit viruses and to assess the ability of these peptides to protect against infection. Synthetic peptides consisting of two overlapping sequences each in the region of aa 94 to 122 of the rabbit oral (ROPV) and cottontail rabbit (CRPV) papillomaviruses were used to immunize rabbits. Rabbits were then infected with both ROPV and CRPV and monitored for the development of oral and cutaneous papillomas, respectively. Serum derived from rabbits immunized with either of the two peptides was shown to (i) react to purified L2 from the cognate virus, (ii) specifically recognize L2 within virus-infected cells, and (iii) neutralize virus in vitro. Following viral challenge, cutaneous papilloma growth was completely absent in rabbits immunized with either CRPV peptide. Likewise, ROPV peptide-immunized rabbits were protected from oral papillomatosis. Challenge of CRPV peptide-immune rabbits with the viral genome resulted in efficient papilloma growth, suggesting a neutralizing antibody-mediated mechanism of protection. These results afford in vivo evidence for the immunogenicity provided by a distinct region of L2 and further support previous evidence for the ability of this region to elicit antiviral immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9798-9805
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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