In Vitro Pre-Clinical Evaluation of a Gonococcal Trivalent Candidate Vaccine Identified by Transcriptomics

Shea K. Roe, Brian Felter, Bo Zheng, Sanjay Ram, Lee M. Wetzler, Eric Garges, Tianmou Zhu, Caroline A. Genco, Paola Massari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, poses a significant global public health threat. Infection in women can be asymptomatic and may result in severe reproductive complications. Escalating antibiotic resistance underscores the need for an effective vaccine. Approaches being explored include subunit vaccines and outer membrane vesicles (OMVs), but an ideal candidate remains elusive. Meningococcal OMV-based vaccines have been associated with reduced rates of gonorrhea in retrospective epidemiologic studies, and with accelerated gonococcal clearance in mouse vaginal colonization models. Cross-protection is attributed to shared antigens and possibly cross-reactive, bactericidal antibodies. Using a Candidate Antigen Selection Strategy (CASS) based on the gonococcal transcriptome during human mucosal infection, we identified new potential vaccine targets that, when used to immunize mice, induced the production of antibodies with bactericidal activity against N. gonorrhoeae strains. The current study determined antigen recognition by human sera from N. gonorrhoeae-infected subjects, evaluated their potential as a multi-antigen (combination) vaccine in mice and examined the impact of different adjuvants (Alum or Alum+MPLA) on functional antibody responses to N. gonorrhoeae. Our results indicated that a stronger Th1 immune response component induced by Alum+MPLA led to antibodies with improved bactericidal activity. In conclusion, a combination of CASS-derived antigens may be promising for developing effective gonococcal vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1846
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Th1/Th2 responses
  • adjuvants
  • bactericidal antibodies
  • gonorrhea
  • vaccine


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