• antibody;
  • epitope;
  • peptide polymers;
  • vaccines

Abstract: The assembly of synthetic peptide-based vaccines that incorporate multiple epitopes is a major goal of vaccine development, because such vaccines will potentially allow the immunization of outbred populations against a number of different pathogens. We have shown that free radical-induced polymerization of individual peptide epitopes results in the incorporation of multiple copies of the same or different epitopes into high molecular weight immunogens (O'Brien-Simpson, N.M., Ede, N.J., Brown, L.E., Swan, J. & Jackson, D.C. (1997) Polymerization of unprotected synthetic peptides: a view toward synthetic peptide vaccines. J. Am. Chem. Soc.119, 1183–1188; Jackson, D.C., O'Brien-Simpson, N., Ede, N.J. & Brown, L.E. (1997) Free radical induced polymerization of synthetic peptides into polymeric immunogens. Vaccine15, 1697–1705). The ability to control the size of these polymers, to determine the physical and chemical properties of the backbone material and also to know the extent to which individual peptide epitopes are incorporated are important manufacturing considerations and form the subject of this study. We show here that the polymerization process is highly efficient with at least 70% of peptides incorporated into the resulting polymer, that acrylamide and acryloylated amino acids can be used as comonomers with peptide epitopes in the polymerization reaction and that the choice of the comonomer can influence the properties of the resulting polymer. We also show that the size of chain growth polymers is restricted in the presence of chain transfer agents, that the resulting polymer size can be predicted and that there is little or no difference in the immunogenicity of polymers that range in apparent molecular size between 18 kDa and 335 kDa. The successful polymerization of peptide epitopes with an acryloyl-amino acid creates the potential for introducing different physical and chemical properties into artificial protein immunogens.