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Open Access Research article

Overcoming antigen masking of anti-amyloidbeta antibodies reveals breaking of B cell tolerance by virus-like particles in amyloidbeta immunized amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice

Qingyou Li1, Chuanhai Cao2, Bryce Chackerian3, John Schiller3, Marcia Gordon1, Kenneth E Ugen2 and Dave Morgan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Alzheimer's Research Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology University of South Florida, Tampa FL 33612-4799, USA

2 Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of South Florida, Tampa FL 33612-4799, USA

3 Laboratory of Cellular Oncology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-4263, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2004, 5:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-5-21

Published: 8 June 2004



In prior work we detected reduced anti-Aβ antibody titers in Aβ-vaccinated transgenic mice expressing the human amyloid precursor protein (APP) compared to nontransgenic littermates. We investigated this observation further by vaccinating APP and nontransgenic mice with either the wild-type human Aβ peptide, an Aβ peptide containing the "Dutch Mutation", E22Q, or a wild-type Aβ peptide conjugated to papillomavirus virus-like particles (VLPs).


Anti-Aβ antibody titers were lower in vaccinated APP than nontransgenic mice even when vaccinated with the highly immunogenic Aβ E22Q. One concern was that human Aβ derived from the APP transgene might mask anti-Aβ antibodies in APP mice. To test this possibility, we dissociated antigen-antibody complexes by incubation at low pH. The low pH incubation increased the anti-Aβ antibody titers 20–40 fold in APP mice but had no effect in sera from nontransgenic mice. However, even after dissociation, the anti-Aβ titers were still lower in transgenic mice vaccinated with wild-type Aβ or E22Q Aβ relative to non-transgenic mice. Importantly, the dissociated anti-Aβ titers were equivalent in nontransgenic and APP mice after VLP-based vaccination. Control experiments demonstrated that after acid-dissociation, the increased antibody titer did not cross react with bovine serum albumin nor alpha-synuclein, and addition of Aβ back to the dissociated serum blocked the increase in antibody titers.


Circulating human Aβ can interfere with ELISA assay measurements of anti-Aβ titers. The E22Q Aβ peptide vaccine is more immunogenic than the wild-type peptide. Unlike peptide vaccines, VLP-based vaccines against Aβ abrogate the effects of Aβ self-tolerance.