Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George E. Pierce

Second Advisor

Sidney A. Crow, Jr.

Third Advisor

Eric Gilbert


A platform for vaccine development has been developed at Georgia State University utilizing recombinant Salmonella typhimurium flagellin (FliC) fused to an antigen that can be overexpressed in Escherichia coli grown in a two-stage fermentation. The flagellin acts as an adjuvant to increase the immunopotency of the fused antigen. Flagellin is the ligand for Toll-like Receptor 5 (TLR5), a part of the innate immune system. Binding of the flagellin:antigen recombinant protein to TLR5 triggers a strong innate and adaptive immune response to the fused antigen leading to a potentially strong protective immunity to the antigen.

Purification of the recombinant FliC fusion protein must meet rigorous criteria in order to be used as a vaccine. One of the major issues in purifying recombinant proteins expressed in a Gram-negative bacterium is the removal of endotoxin. Small amounts of endotoxin present in a vaccine can lead to serious complications, including death. Recombinant proteins are also expressed as either soluble or insoluble protein when over expressed in E. coli. Soluble proteins expressed by the bacterium are properly folded and biologically active, however removal of contaminants such as endotoxin, can be problematic. Insoluble protein is improperly folded and biologically inactive. The insoluble proteins aggregate into inclusion bodies with little or no contaminants associated with the protein, making purification easier. However, in order to restore the biological activity of the insoluble protein, it must first be solubilized and then refolded. This process is often expensive and time consuming, as there is currently no standardized method for protein refolding.

In this study a purification method for the soluble protein of two FliC constructs, full-length FliC and FliC fused to a Marburg virus antigen, was evaluated for effectiveness in purification, removal of endotoxin and maintaining TLR5 activity. The proteins of interest were purified utilizing only the soluble protein containing the properly folded and biologically active recombinant protein. Utilizing methods for purification that take advantage of physical and chemical properties of the protein the recombinant proteins were purified and the level of endotoxin reduced to levels acceptable for use as a vaccine. The TLR5 activity of the soluble recombinant proteins was compared to recombinant protein that had been purified using a denaturing and refolding step. The soluble protein elicited a higher TLR5 response at a lower concentration of protein than the refolded protein. Purification of the soluble fraction also involved fewer step and less time than purification of both the soluble and insoluble protein.