Rotavirus A (RVA) remains one of the most widespread causes of diarrheal disease and mortality in piglets despite decades of research and efforts to boost lactogenic immunity for passive protection. Genetic changes at B cell epitopes (BCEs) may be driving failure of lactogenic immunity, which relies on production of IgA antibodies to passively neutralize RVA within the piglet gut, yet little research has mapped epitopes to swine-specific strains of RVA. Here we describe a bioinformatic approach to predict BCEs on the VP7 outer capsid protein using sequence data alone. We first validated the approach using a previously published dataset of VP7-specific cross-neutralization titers, and found that amino acid changes at predicted BCEs on the VP7 protein allowed for accurate recapitulation of antigenic relationships among the strains. Applying the approach to a dataset of swine RVA sequences identified 9 of the 11 known BCEs previously mapped to swine strains, indicating that epitope prediction can identify sites that are known to drive neutralization escape in vitro. Additional genotype-specific BCEs were also predicted that may be the cause of antigenic differences among strains of RVA on farms and should be targeted for further confirmatory work. The results of this work lay the groundwork for high throughput, immunologically-relevant analysis of swine RVA sequence data, and provide potential sites that can be targeted with vaccines to reduce piglet mortality and support farm health.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded through Merck Animal Health USA. FS was funded by the University of Minnesota MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures Fellowship and the Pig Improvement Company.
- B cell epitopes
- rotavirus A