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Keywords:

  • hemizona assay;
  • immunocontraception;
  • oocyte;
  • synthetic peptide;
  • zona pellucida glycoproteins

Abstract

Immunocontraception achieved by immunization with zona pellucida (ZP) glycoproteins is invariably associated with ovarian dysfunction. Use of ZP glycoprotein-based synthetic peptides as immunogens has been proposed to overcome adverse side effects on ovaries. In the present study, a chimeric peptide encompassing the epitopes of bonnet monkey (Macaca radiata) ZP glycoprotein-1 (bmZP1; amino acid residues 251–273) and ZP glycoprotein-3 (bmZP3; amino acid residues 324–347), separated by a tri-glycine spacer, was synthesized and conjugated to diphtheria toxoid (DT). Immunization of female BALB/cJ mice and bonnet monkeys with the chimeric peptide led to generation of antibodies that reacted with the chimeric peptide, individual bmZP1 & bmZP3 peptides, and also recombinant bmZP1 and bmZP3 proteins expressed by E. coli in an ELISA. Indirect immunofluorescence studies revealed that the immune serum also recognized human as well as bonnet monkey ZP. A significant inhibition of human sperm binding to ZP was observed with antibodies generated against the chimeric peptide in mice (P = 0.0001) as well as monkeys (P = 0.0002) in a hemizona assay (HZA). The inhibition efficacy was significantly higher than that observed by using antibodies against the individual bmZP1 and bmZP3 peptides. Interestingly, no ovarian pathology was observed in female bonnet monkeys immunized with the chimeric peptide. These studies have demonstrated that the chimeric peptide encompassing peptides of multiple ZP glycoproteins may be a promising candidate antigen for designing immunocontraceptive vaccines. Mol. Reprod. Dev. 70: 247–254, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.