We have evaluated the potential of two peptides derived from highly conserved regions of rotavirus outer capsid proteins (VP7 and VP4) to act as a rotavirus vaccine. The capacity of peptides coupled to rotavirus VP6 spherical particles to provide passive protection in a murine model was compared with the protection induced by peptide-keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) conjugates. Female mice were immunized a total of three times before and during pregnancy. Suckling mouse pups were challenged at 7 days of age with either homologous or heterologous rotavirus serotypes. The efficacy of vaccination was determined by analyzing the clinical symptoms and measuring xylose adsorption in the intestine. In this model the VP4 peptide-VP6 conjugate provided protection equal to that obtained using bovine rotavirus (BRV) as the immunogen. The VP7 peptide-VP6 conjugate provided slightly less protection than the VP4 peptide-VP6 conjugate. A mixture of the VP4 peptide-VP6 and VP7 peptide-VP6 conjugates provided better heterologous protection than immunization with BRV. In contrast, KLH-conjugated peptides provided only partial protection. The significance of a synthetic-peptide-based rotavirus vaccine in the prevention of rotavirus infections is discussed
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