Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is the most frequent bacterial cause of diarrhea particularly reported in children of developing countries and also travelers. Enterotoxins and colonization factor antigens (CFAs) are two major virulence factors in ETEC pathogenesis. Colonization factor antigen I (CFA/I) includes major pilin subunit CfaB, and a minor adhesive subunit (CfaE), and enterotoxins consisting of heat-labile toxin subunit B (LTB) and heat-stable toxin (ST). Chimeric proteins (CCL) carrying epitopes and adjuvant sequences increase the possibility of eliciting a broad cellular or effective immune response. In the present study, a chimeric candidate vaccine containing CfaB*ST, CfaE, and LTB (CCL) was designed via in silico techniques. This chimeric gene was synthesized by using codon usage of E. coli for increasing the expression of the recombinant protein. After designing the chimeric construct, it showed a high antigenicity index estimated by the vaxiJen server. Linear and conformational B-cell epitopes were identified and indicated suitable immunogenicity of this multimeric recombinant protein. Thermodynamic analyses for mRNA structures revealed the appropriate folding of the RNA representative good stability of this molecule. In silico scanning was done to predict the 3D structure of the protein, and modeling was validated using the Ramachandran plot analysis. The chimeric protein (rCCL) was expressed in a prokaryotic expression system (E. coli), purified, and analyzed for their immunogenic properties. It was revealed that the production of a high titer of antibody produced in immunized mice could neutralize the ETEC using the rabbit ileal loop tests. The results indicated that the protein inferred from the recombinant protein (rCCL) construct could act as a proper vaccine candidate against three critical causative agents of diarrheal bacteria at the same time.
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