Interleukin-12 is a heterodimeric, pro-inflammatory cytokine that is a key driver of cell-mediated immunity. Clinical interest in IL-12 is significant due to its potent anti-tumor activity and efficacy in controlling certain infectious diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Listeria infection. For clinical applications, the ease of production and purification of IL-12 and the associated cost continues to be a consideration. In this context, we report a simple and effective heparin-affinity based purification of recombinant human IL-12 (hIL-12) from the serum-free supernatants of stable IL-12-transduced HEK293 cells. Fractionation of culture supernatants on heparin Sepharose columns revealed that hIL-12 elutes as a single peak in 500 mM NaCl. Coomassie staining and Western blot analysis showed that hIL-12 eluted in 500 mM NaCl is homogeneous. Purity of hIL-12 was ascertained by RP-HPLC and ESI-MS analysis, and found to be ?98%. Western blot analysis, using monoclonal antibodies, demonstrated that the crucial inter-subunit disulfide bond linking the p35 and p40 subunits is intact in the purified hIL-12. Results of far UV circular dichroism, steady-state tryptophan fluorescence, and differential scanning calorimetry experiments suggest that purified hIL-12 is in its stable native conformation. Enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and bioactivity studies demonstrate that hIL-12 is obtained in high yields (0.31±0.05 mg/mL of the culture medium) and is also fully bioactive. Isothermal titration calorimetry data show that IL-12 exhibits a moderate binding affinity (Kd(app)=69±1 ?M) to heparin. The purification method described in this study is expected to provide greater impetus for research on the role of heparin in the regulation of the function of IL-12. In addition, the results of this study provide an avenue to obtain high amounts of IL-12 required for structural studies which are aimed at the development of novel IL-12-based therapeutics.
To identify the most promising vaccine candidates for combinatorial strategies, we compared five SIV vaccine platforms including recombinant canary pox virus ALVAC, replication-competent adenovirus type 5 host range mutant RepAd, DNA, modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA), peptides and protein in distinct combinations. Three regimens used viral vectors (prime or boost) and two regimens used plasmid DNA. Analysis at necropsy showed that the DNA-based vaccine regimens elicited significantly higher cellular responses against Gag and Env than any of the other vaccine platforms. The T cell responses induced by most vaccine regimens disseminated systemically into secondary lymphoid tissues (lymph nodes, spleen) and effector anatomical sites (including liver, vaginal tissue), indicative of their role in viral containment at the portal of entry. The cellular and reported humoral immune response data suggest that combination of DNA and viral vectors elicits a balanced immunity with strong and durable responses able to disseminate into relevant mucosal sites.
The ability to elicit potent and long-lasting broadly neutralizing HIV envelope (Env)-specific antibodies has become a key goal for HIV vaccine development. Consequently, the ability to rapidly and efficiently monitor development of memory B cells in pre-clinical and clinical vaccine trails is critical for continued progress in vaccine design. We have developed an improved flow cytometry-based method for the rapid and efficient identification of gp120-specific memory B cells in peripheral blood, bone marrow, and mucosal tissues which allows their direct staining without the need for prior cell sorting or enrichment. We demonstrate staining of both HIV and SIV Env-specific memory B cells in PBMC, bone marrow, and rectal tissue of vaccinated and infected rhesus macaques. Validation of the method is illustrated by statistically significant correlations with memory B cell levels quantified by ELISPOT assay and with serum binding antibody titers determined by ELISA. In addition to quantification, this method will bring the power of flow cytometry to the study of homing and trafficking of Env-specific memory B cells.
Combinatorial HIV/SIV vaccine approaches targeting multiple arms of the immune system might improve protective efficacy. We compared SIV-specific humoral immunity induced in rhesus macaques by five vaccine regimens. Systemic regimens included ALVAC-SIVenv priming and Env boosting (ALVAC/Env); DNA immunization; and DNA plus Env co-immunization (DNA&Env). RepAd/Env combined mucosal replication-competent Ad-env priming with systemic Env boosting. A Peptide/Env regimen, given solely intrarectally, included HIV/SIV peptides followed by MVA-env and Env boosts. Serum antibodies mediating neutralizing, phagocytic and ADCC activities were induced by ALVAC/Env, RepAd/Env and DNA&Env vaccines. Memory B cells and plasma cells were maintained in the bone marrow. RepAd/Env vaccination induced early SIV-specific IgA in rectal secretions before Env boosting, although mucosal IgA and IgG responses were readily detected at necropsy in ALVAC/Env, RepAd/Env, DNA&Env and DNA vaccinated animals. Our results suggest that combined RepAd priming with ALVAC/Env or DNA&Env regimen boosting might induce potent, functional, long-lasting systemic and mucosal SIV-specific antibodies.
To target immune responses towards invariable regions of the virus, we engineered DNA-based immunogens encoding conserved elements (CE) of HIV-1 p24gag. This conserved element vaccine is designed to avoid decoy epitopes by focusing responses to critical viral elements. We previously reported that vaccination of macaques with p24CE DNA induced robust cellular immune responses to CE that were not elicited upon wild type p55gag DNA vaccination. p24CE DNA priming followed by p55gag DNA boost provided a novel strategy to increase the magnitude and breadth of the cellular immune responses to HIV-1 Gag, including the induction of strong, multifunctional T-cell responses targeting epitopes within CE. Here, we examined the humoral responses induced upon p24CE DNA or p55gag DNA vaccination in macaques and found that although both vaccines induced robust p24gag binding antibody responses, the responses induced by p24CE DNA showed a unique broad range of linear epitope recognition. In contrast, antibodies elicited by p55gag DNA vaccine failed to recognize p24CE protein and did not recognize linear epitopes spanning the CE. Interestingly, boosting of p24CE DNA primed animals with p55gag DNA resulted in augmentation of antibodies able to recognize p24gag as well as the p24CE proteins, thereby inducing broadest immunity. Our results indicate that an effectively directed vaccine strategy that includes priming with the conserved element vaccine followed by boost with the complete immunogen induces broad cellular and humoral immunity focused on the conserved regions of the virus. This novel and effective strategy to broaden responses could be applied against other antigens of highly diverse pathogens.
We tested the concept of combining DNA with protein to improve anti-HIV Env systemic and mucosal humoral immune responses. Rhesus macaques were vaccinated with DNA, DNA&protein co-immunization or DNA prime followed by protein boost, and the magnitude and mucosal dissemination of the antibody responses were monitored in both plasma and mucosal secretions. We achieved induction of robust humoral responses by optimized DNA vaccination delivered by in vivo electroporation. These responses were greatly increased upon administration of a protein boost. Importantly, a co-immunization regimen of DNA&protein injected in the same muscle at the same time induced the highest systemic binding and neutralizing antibodies to homologous or heterologous Env as well as the highest Env-specific IgG in saliva. Inclusion of protein in the vaccine resulted in more immunized animals with Env-specific IgG in rectal fluids. Inclusion of DNA in the vaccine significantly increased the longevity of systemic humoral immune responses, whereas protein immunization, either as the only vaccine component or as boost after DNA prime, was followed by a great decline of humoral immune responses overtime. We conclude that DNA&protein co-delivery in a simple vaccine regimen combines the strength of each vaccine component, resulting in improved magnitude, extended longevity and increased mucosal dissemination of the induced antibodies in immunized rhesus macaques.
HIV sequence diversity and potential decoy epitopes are hurdles in the development of an effective AIDS vaccine. A DNA vaccine candidate comprising of highly conserved p24(gag) elements (CE) induced robust immunity in all 10 vaccinated macaques, whereas full-length gag DNA vaccination elicited responses to these conserved elements in only 5 of 11 animals, targeting fewer CE per animal. Importantly, boosting CE-primed macaques with DNA expressing full-length p55(gag) increased both magnitude of CE responses and breadth of Gag immunity, demonstrating alteration of the hierarchy of epitope recognition in the presence of pre-existing CE-specific responses. Inclusion of a conserved element immunogen provides a novel and effective strategy to broaden responses against highly diverse pathogens by avoiding decoy epitopes, while focusing responses to critical viral elements for which few escape pathways exist.
We evaluated the immunogenicity and efficacy of Vaxfectin(®) adjuvanted SIV DNA vaccines in mice and macaques. Vaccination of mice with Vaxfectin(®) adjuvanted SIV gag DNA induced higher humoral immune responses than administration of unadjuvanted DNA, whereas similar levels of cellular immunity were elicited. Vaxfectin(®) adjuvanted SIVmac251 gag and env DNA immunization of rhesus macaques was used to examine magnitude, durability, and efficacy of humoral immunity. Vaccinated macaques elicited potent neutralizing antibodies able to cross-neutralize the heterologous SIVsmE660 Env. We found remarkable durability of Gag and Env humoral responses, sustained during ~2 y of follow-up. The Env-specific antibody responses induced by Vaxfectin(®) adjuvanted env DNA vaccination disseminated into mucosal tissues, as demonstrated by their presence in saliva, including responses to the V1-V2 region, and rectal fluids. The efficacy of the immune responses was evaluated upon intrarectal challenge with low repeated dose SIVmac251. Although 2 of the 3 vaccinees became infected, these animals showed significantly lower peak virus loads and lower chronic viremia than non-immunized infected controls. Thus, Vaxfectin(®) adjuvanted DNA is a promising vaccine approach for inducing potent immune responses able to control the highly pathogenic SIVmac251.
A panel of SIVmac251 transmitted Env sequences were tested for expression, function and immunogenicity in mice and macaques. The immunogenicity of a DNA vaccine cocktail expressing SIVmac239 and three transmitted SIVmac251 Env sequences was evaluated upon intradermal or intramuscular injection followed by in vivo electroporation in macaques using sequential vaccination of gp160, gp120 and gp140 expressing DNAs. Both intradermal and intramuscular vaccination regimens using the gp160 expression plasmids induced robust humoral immune responses, which further improved using the gp120 expressing DNAs. The responses showed durability of binding and neutralizing antibody titers and high avidity for>1 y. The intradermal DNA delivery regimen induced higher cross-reactive responses able to neutralize the heterologous tier 1B-like SIVsmE660_CG7V. Analysis of cellular immune responses showed induction of Env-specific memory responses and cytotoxic granzyme B(+) T cells in both vaccine groups, although the magnitude of the responses were ~10x higher in the intramuscular/electroporation group. The cellular responses induced by both regimens were long lasting and could be detected ~1 y after the last vaccination. These data show that both DNA delivery methods are able to induce robust and durable immune responses in macaques.
Live attenuated viruses are among our most potent and effective vaccines. For human immunodeficiency virus, however, a live attenuated strain could present substantial safety concerns. We have used the live attenuated rubella vaccine strain RA27/3 as a vector to express SIV and HIV vaccine antigens because its safety and immunogenicity have been demonstrated in millions of children. One dose protects for life against rubella infection. In previous studies, rubella vectors replicated to high titers in cell culture while stably expressing SIV and HIV antigens. Their viability in vivo, however, as well as immunogenicity and antibody persistence, were unknown.
Interleukin-15 (IL-15), a 114-amino acid cytokine related to IL-2, regulates immune homeostasis and the fate of many lymphocyte subsets. We reported that, in the blood of mice and humans, IL-15 is present as a heterodimer associated with soluble IL-15 receptor ? (sIL-15R?). Here, we show efficient production of this noncovalently linked but stable heterodimer in clonal human HEK293 cells and release of the processed IL-15·sIL-15R? heterodimer in the medium. Purification of the IL-15 and sIL-15R? polypeptides allowed identification of the proteolytic cleavage site of IL-15R? and characterization of multiple glycosylation sites. Administration of the IL-15·sIL-15R? heterodimer reconstituted from purified subunits resulted in sustained plasma IL-15 levels and in robust expansion of NK and T cells in mice, demonstrating pharmacokinetics and in vivo bioactivity superior to single chain IL-15. These identified properties of heterodimeric IL-15 provide a strong rationale for the evaluation of this molecule for clinical applications.
Molecular adjuvants are important for augmenting or modulating immune responses induced by DNA vaccination. Promising results have been obtained using IL-12 expression plasmids in a variety of disease models including the SIV model of HIV infection. We used a mouse model to evaluate plasmid IL-12 (pIL-12) in a DNA prime, recombinant adenovirus serotype 5 (rAd5) boost regimen specifically to evaluate the effect of IL-12 expression on cellular and humoral immunity induced against both SIVmac239 Gag and Env antigens. Priming with electroporated (EP) DNA+pIL-12 resulted in a 2-4-fold enhanced frequency of Gag-specific CD4 T cells which was maintained through the end of the study irrespective of the pIL-12 dose, while memory Env-specific CD4+T cells were maintained only at the low dose of pIL-12. There was little positive effect of pIL-12 on the humoral response to Env, and in fact, high dose pIL-12 dramatically reduced SIV Env-specific IgG. Additionally, both doses of pIL-12 diminished the frequency of CD8 T-cells after DNA prime, although a rAd5 boost recovered CD8 responses regardless of the pIL-12 dose. In this prime-boost regimen, we have shown that a high dose pIL-12 can systemically reduce Env-specific humoral responses and CD4T cell frequency, but not Gag-specific CD4+ T cells. These data indicate that it is important to independently characterize individual SIV or HIV antigen immunogenicity in multi-antigenic vaccines as a function of adjuvant dose.
Viral diversity is considered a major impediment to the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine. Despite this diversity, certain protein segments are nearly invariant across the known HIV-1 Group M sequences. We developed immunogens based on the highly conserved elements from the p24(gag) region according to two principles: the immunogen must (i) include strictly conserved elements of the virus that cannot mutate readily, and (ii) exclude both HIV regions capable of mutating without limiting virus viability, and also immunodominant epitopes located in variable regions. We engineered two HIV-1 p24(gag) DNA immunogens that express 7 highly Conserved Elements (CE) of 12-24 amino acids in length and differ by only 1 amino acid in each CE (toggle site), together covering >99% of the HIV-1 Group M sequences. Altering intracellular trafficking of the immunogens changed protein localization, stability, and also the nature of elicited immune responses. Immunization of C57BL/6 mice with p55(gag) DNA induced poor, CD4(+) mediated cellular responses, to only 2 of the 7 CE; in contrast, vaccination with p24CE DNA induced cross-clade reactive, robust T cell responses to 4 of the 7 CE. The responses were multifunctional and composed of both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells with mature cytotoxic phenotype. These findings provide a method to increase immune response to universally conserved Gag epitopes, using the p24CE immunogen. p24CE DNA vaccination induced humoral immune responses similar in magnitude to those induced by p55(gag), which recognize the virus encoded p24(gag) protein. The inclusion of DNA immunogens composed of conserved elements is a promising vaccine strategy to induce broader immunity by CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells to additional regions of Gag compared to vaccination with p55(gag) DNA, achieving maximal cross-clade reactive cellular and humoral responses.
We have previously shown that macaques vaccinated with DNA vectors expressing SIVmac239 antigens developed potent immune responses able to reduce viremia upon high-dose SIVmac251 challenge. To further improve vaccine-induced immunity and protection, we combined the SIVmac239 DNA vaccine with protein immunization using inactivated SIVmac239 viral particles as protein source. Twenty-six weeks after the last vaccination, the animals were challenged intrarectally at weekly intervals with a titrated dose of the heterologous SIVsmE660. Two of DNA-protein coimmunized macaques did not become infected after 14 challenges, but all controls were infected by 11 challenges. Vaccinated macaques showed modest protection from SIVsmE660 acquisition compared with naïve controls (P = 0.050; stratified for TRIM5? genotype). Vaccinees had significantly lower peak (1.6 log, P = 0.0048) and chronic phase viremia (P = 0.044), with 73% of the vaccinees suppressing viral replication to levels below assay detection during the 40-wk follow-up. Vaccine-induced immune responses associated significantly with virus control: binding antibody titers and the presence of rectal IgG to SIVsmE660 Env correlated with delayed SIVsmE660 acquisition; SIV-specific cytotoxic T cells, prechallenge CD4(+) effector memory, and postchallenge CD8(+) transitional memory cells correlated with control of viremia. Thus, SIVmac239 DNA and protein-based vaccine protocols were able to achieve high, persistent, broad, and effective cellular and humoral immune responses able to delay heterologous SIVsmE660 infection and to provide long-term control of viremia. These studies support a role of DNA and protein-based vaccines for development of an efficacious HIV/AIDS vaccine.
Vaccination with HIV/SIV DNAs elicits potent T-cell responses. To improve humoral immune responses, we combined DNA and protein in a co-immunization protocol using in vivo electroporation in mice and macaques. DNA&protein co-immunization induced higher antibody responses than DNA or protein alone, or DNA prime/protein boost in mice. DNA&protein co-immunization induced similar levels of cellular responses as those obtained by DNA only vaccination. The inclusion of SIV or HIV Env gp120 protein did not impair the development of cellular immune responses elicited by DNA present in the vaccine regimen. In macaques, the DNA&protein co-immunization regimen also elicited higher levels of humoral responses with broader cross-neutralizing activity. Despite the improved immunogenicity of DNA&protein co-immunization, the protein formulation with the EM-005 (GLA-SE) adjuvant further increased the anti-Env humoral responses. Dissecting the contribution of EM-005, we found that its administration upregulated the expression of co-stimulatory molecules and stimulated cytokine production, especially IL-6, by dendritic cells in vivo. These terminally differentiated, mature, dendritic cells possibly promote higher levels of humoral responses, supporting the inclusion of the EM-005 adjuvant with the vaccine. Thus, DNA&protein co-immunization is a promising strategy to improve the rapidity of development, magnitude and potency of the humoral immune responses.
We used the simian immunodeficiency virus mac251 (SIV(mac251)) macaque model to study the effect of the dose of mucosal exposure on vaccine efficacy. We immunized macaques with a DNA prime followed by SIV gp120 protein immunization with ALVAC-SIV and gp120 in alum, and we challenged them with SIV(mac251) at either a single high dose or at two repeated low-dose exposures to a 10-fold-lower dose. Infection was neither prevented nor modified following a single high-dose challenge of the immunized macaques. However, two exposures to a 10-fold-lower dose resulted in protection from SIV(mac251) acquisition in 3 out of 12 macaques. The remaining animals that were infected had a modulated pathogenesis, significant downregulation of interferon responsive genes, and upregulation of genes involved in B- and T-cell responses. Thus, the choice of the experimental model greatly influences the vaccine efficacy of vaccines for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
We compared the relative efficacies against simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) challenge of three vaccine regimens that elicited similar frequencies of SIV-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell responses but differed in the level of antibody responses to the gp120 envelope protein. All macaques were primed with DNA plasmids expressing SIV gag, pol, env, and Retanef genes and were boosted with recombinant modified vaccinia Ankara virus (MVA) expressing the same genes, either once (1 × MVA) or twice (2 × MVA), or were boosted once with MVA followed by a single boost with replication-competent adenovirus (Ad) type 5 host range mutant (Ad5 h) expressing SIV gag and nef genes but not Retanef or env (1 × MVA/Ad5). While two of the vaccine regimens (1 × MVA and 1 × MVA/Ad5) protected from high levels of SIV replication only during the acute phase of infection, the 2 × MVA regimen, with the highest anti-SIV gp120 titers, protected during the acute phase and transiently during the chronic phase of infection. Mamu-A*01 macaques of this third group exhibited persistent Gag CD8(+)CM9(+) effector memory T cells with low expression of surface Programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor and high levels of expression of genes associated with major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) and MHC-II antigen. The fact that control of SIV replication was associated with both high titers of antibodies to the SIV envelope protein and durable effector SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells suggests the hypothesis that the presence of antibodies at the time of challenge may increase innate immune recruiting activity by enhancing antigen uptake and may result in improvement of the quality and potency of secondary SIV-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses.
IL-12 is a 70-kDa heterodimeric cytokine composed of the p35 and p40 subunits. To maximize cytokine production from plasmid DNA, molecular steps controlling IL-12p70 biosynthesis at the posttranscriptional and posttranslational levels were investigated. We show that the combination of RNA/codon-optimized gene sequences and fine-tuning of the relative expression levels of the two subunits within a cell resulted in increased production of the IL-12p70 heterodimer. We found that the p40 subunit plays a critical role in enhancing the stability, intracellular trafficking, and export of the p35 subunit. This posttranslational regulation mediated by the p40 subunit is conserved in mammals. Based on these findings, dual gene expression vectors were generated, producing an optimal ratio of the two subunits, resulting in a ~1 log increase in human, rhesus, and murine IL-12p70 production compared with vectors expressing the wild type sequences. Such optimized DNA plasmids also produced significantly higher levels of systemic bioactive IL-12 upon in vivo DNA delivery in mice compared with plasmids expressing the wild type sequences. A single therapeutic injection of an optimized murine IL-12 DNA plasmid showed significantly more potent control of tumor development in the B16 melanoma cancer model in mice. Therefore, the improved IL-12p70 DNA vectors have promising potential for in vivo use as molecular vaccine adjuvants and in cancer immunotherapy.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis plays a central role in the adaptive response to stress including infection of pathogens through glucocorticoids. Physical and/or mental stress alter susceptibility to viral infection possibly by affecting this regulatory system, thus we explored potential cellular targets and mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon in key immune components dendritic cells (DCs). Dexamethasone (DEX) treatment and subsequent Newcastle disease virus (NDV) infection most significantly and cooperatively stimulated mRNA expression of the interleukin (IL)-10 in murine bone marrow-derived DCs among 89 genes involved in the Toll-like receptor signaling pathways. NDV increased DEX-induced IL-10 mRNA and protein expression by 7- and 3-fold, respectively, which was observed from 3 hours after infection. Conventional DCs (cDCs), but not plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) were major sources of IL-10 in bone marrow-derived DCs treated with DEX and/or infected with NDV. Murine cytomegalovirus and DEX increased serum IL-10 cooperatively in female mice. Pre-treatment of DCs with the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) inhibitor U0126 abolished cooperative induction of IL-10 by DEX and NDV. Further, ERK overexpression increased IL-10 promoter activity stimulated by wild-type human GR but not by its mutant defective in serine 203, whereas ERK knockdown abolished NDV/DEX cooperation on IL-10 mRNA and phosphorylation of the mouse GR at serine 213. NDV also increased DEX-induced mRNA expression of three known glucocorticoid-responsive genes unrelated to the Toll-like receptor signaling pathways in DCs. These results indicate that virus and glucocorticoids cooperatively increase production of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 by potentiating the transcriptional activity of GR in DCs, through which virus appears to facilitate its own propagation in infected hosts. The results may further underlie in part known exacerbation of IL-10/T helper-2-related allergic disorders by stress and viral infection.
Vaccine regimens using different agents for priming and boosting have become popular for enhancing T cell and Ab responses elicited by candidate HIV/AIDS vaccines. Here we use a simian model to evaluate immunogenicity and protective efficacy of a recombinant modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccine in the presence and absence of a recombinant DNA prime. The simian vaccines and regimens represent prototypes for candidate HIV vaccines currently undergoing clinical testing.
DNA priming has previously been shown to elicit augmented immune responses when administered by electroporation (EP) or codelivered with a plasmid encoding interleukin-12 (pIL-12). We hypothesized that the efficacy of a DNA prime and recombinant adenovirus 5 boost vaccination regimen (DNA/rAd5) would be improved when incorporating these vaccination strategies into the DNA priming phase, as determined by pathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239 challenge outcome. The whole SIVmac239 proteome was delivered in 5 separate DNA plasmids (pDNA-SIV) by EP with or without pIL-12, followed by boosting 4 months later with corresponding rAd5-SIV vaccine vectors. Remarkably, after repeated low-dose SIVmac239 mucosal challenge, we demonstrate 2.6 and 4.4 log reductions of the median SIV peak and set point viral loads in rhesus macaques (RMs) that received pDNA-SIV by EP with pIL-12 compared to the median peak and set point viral loads in mock-immunized controls (P < 0.01). In 5 out of 6 infected RMs, strong suppression of viremia was observed, with intermittent "blips" in virus replication. In 2 RMs, we could not detect the presence of SIV RNA in tissue and lymph nodes, even after 13 viral challenges. RMs immunized without pIL-12 demonstrated a typical maximum of 1.5 log reduction in virus load. There was no significant difference in the overall magnitude of SIV-specific antibodies or CD8 T-cell responses between groups; however, pDNA delivery by EP with pIL-12 induced a greater magnitude of SIV-specific CD4 T cells that produced multiple cytokines. This vaccine strategy is relevant for existing vaccine candidates entering clinical evaluation, and this model may provide insights into control of retrovirus replication.
We previously showed that co-immunization with a protein antigen and a DNA vaccine coding for the same antigen induces CD40 low IL-10 high tolerogenic DCs, which in turn stimulates the expansion of antigen-specific CD4+CD25-Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (CD25- iTreg). However, it was unclear how to choose the antigen sequence to maximize tolerogenic antigen presentation and, consequently, CD25- iTreg induction.
The export of viral RNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm of the cellular host is a crucial step in the life cycle of HIV-1 that is mediated by the viral Rev protein. One aspect of the Rev function, its multimerization, is still unexplored as a target for antiviral therapy. This is partly due to the lack of a fast and solid system to measure Rev multimerization. We have developed a high throughput in vitro Rev multimerization assay based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) in which real-time Rev-Rev interactions can be measured both in the absence and the presence of Rev specific RRE RNA. Well-characterized Rev multimerization deficient mutants showed reduced FRET as well as unlabeled Rev molecules were able to inhibit the FRET signal demonstrating the specificity of the assay. Upon multimerization along RRE RNA the FRET signal significantly increased but dropped again at equimolar Rev/RRE ratios suggesting that in this condition most Rev molecules are bound as monomers to the RRE. Furthermore, using this assay, we demonstrate that a previously selected llama heavy-chain only antibody was shown to not only prevent the development of Rev multimers but also disassemble the already formed complexes confirming the dynamic nature of the Rev-Rev interactions. The in vitro FRET based multimerization assay facilitates the further study of the basic mechanism of cooperative Rev multimerization along the RRE and is also widely applicable to study the assembly of other functional complexes involving protein homo-multimerization or cooperative protein-protein interactions on RNA or DNA.
Dendritic cell (DC) therapy is a promising technology for the treatment of HIV infected individuals. HIV-1 Gag- and Nef RNA-loaded DC have previously been shown to induce immune responses ex vivo following coculture with autologous lymphocytes. However, polyfunctionality and memory responses following coculture have not been evaluated. In addition, little is known regarding whether specific HIV-1 proteome components, such as highly conserved regions of the HIV-1, could enhance clinical responses following DC therapy.
The ER-resident chaperone gp96, when released by cell lysis, induces an immunogenic chemokine signature and causes innate immune activation of DC and NK cells. Here we show that intraperitoneal immunization with a genetically engineered, secreted form of gp96, gp96-Ig chaperoning SIV antigens, induces high levels of antigen specific CD8 CTL in the rectal and vaginal mucosa of Rhesus macaques. The frequency of SIV Gag- and SIV Tat-tetramer positive CD8 CTL in the intestinal mucosa reached 30-50% after the third immunization. Tetramer positive CD8 CTL expressed appropriate functional (granzyme B) and migration markers (CD103). The polyepitope specificity of the mucosal CD8 and CD4 response is evident from a strong, multifunctional cytokine response upon stimulation with peptides covering the gag, tat and env proteins. Induction of powerful mucosal effector CD8 CTL responses by cell-based gp96(SIV)-Ig immunization may provide a pathway to the development of safe and effective SIV/HIV vaccines.
Optimized DNA vectors were constructed comprising the proteome of SIV including the structural, enzymatic, regulatory, and accessory proteins. In addition to native antigens as produced by the virus, fusion proteins and modified antigens with altered secretion, cellular localization and stability characteristics were generated. The DNA vectors were tested for expression upon transfection in human cells. In addition, the vectors were tested either alone or in combinations in mice and macaques, which provided an opportunity to compare immune responses in two animal models. DNA only immunization using intramuscular injection in the absence or presence of in vivo electroporation did not alter the phenotype of the induced T cell responses in mice. Although several fusion proteins induced immune responses to all the components of a polyprotein, we noted fusion proteins that abrogated immune response to some of the components. Since the expression levels of such fusion proteins were not affected, these data suggest that the immune recognition of certain components was altered by the fusion. Testing different DNA vectors in mice and macaques revealed that a combination of DNAs producing different forms of the same antigen generated more balanced immune responses, a desirable feature for an optimal AIDS vaccine.
Kaposis sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes ORF57, which promotes the accumulation of specific KSHV mRNA targets, including ORF59 mRNA. We report that the cellular export NXF1 cofactors RBM15 and OTT3 participate in ORF57-enhanced expression of KSHV ORF59. We also found that ectopic expression of RBM15 or OTT3 augments ORF59 production in the absence of ORF57. While RBM15 promotes the accumulation of ORF59 RNA predominantly in the nucleus compared to the levels in the cytoplasm, we found that ORF57 shifted the nucleocytoplasmic balance by increasing ORF59 RNA accumulation in the cytoplasm more than in the nucleus. By promoting the accumulation of cytoplasmic ORF59 RNA, ORF57 offsets the nuclear RNA accumulation mediated by RBM15 by preventing nuclear ORF59 RNA from hyperpolyadenylation. ORF57 interacts directly with the RBM15 C-terminal portion containing the SPOC domain to reduce RBM15 binding to ORF59 RNA. Although ORF57 homologs Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) EB2, herpes simplex virus (HSV) ICP27, varicella-zoster virus (VZV) IE4/ORF4, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) UL69 also interact with RBM15 and OTT3, EBV EB2, which also promotes ORF59 expression, does not function like KSHV ORF57 to efficiently prevent RBM15-mediated nuclear accumulation of ORF59 RNA and RBM15s association with polyadenylated RNAs. Collectively, our data provide novel insight elucidating a molecular mechanism by which ORF57 promotes the expression of viral intronless genes.
Retrovirus replication requires specialized transport mechanisms to export genomic mRNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm of the infected cell. This regulation is mediated by a combination of viral and/or cellular factors that interact with cis-acting RNA export elements linking the viral RNA to the cellular CRM1 or NXF1 nuclear export pathways. Endogenous type D murine LTR retrotransposons (musD) were reported to contain an RNA export element located upstream of the 3-LTR. Although functionally equivalent, the musD export element, termed the musD transport element, is distinct from the other retroviral RNA export elements, such as the constitutive transport element of simian/Mason-Pfizer monkey retroviruses and the RNA transport element found in rodent intracisternal A-particle LTR retrotransposons. We demonstrate here that the minimal RNA transport element (musD transport element) of musD comprises multiple secondary structure elements that presumably serve as recognition signals for the cellular export machinery. We identified two classes of tertiary interactions, namely kissing loops and a pseudoknot. This work constitutes the first example of an RNA transport element requiring such structural motifs to mediate nuclear export.
Indian rhesus macaques infected with the Rev-independent live-attenuated SIVmac239 strains control viremia to undetectable levels, have persistent but low cellular and humoral anti-SIV responses, and show no signs of immune deficiency. To analyze the immune mechanisms responsible for viral control, five macaques infected at day 1 after birth were subjected to CD8(+) cell depletion at 6.7 y postinfection. This resulted in viremia increases to 3.7-5.5 log(10) RNA copies, supporting a role of CD8-mediated responses in the control of viral replication. The rebounding viremia was rapidly controlled to levels below the threshold of detection, and occurred in the absence of SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells and significant CD8(+) T cell recovery in four of the five animals, suggesting that other mechanisms are involved in the immunological control of viremia. Monitoring immune responses at the time of viral control demonstrated a burst of circulating SIV-specific CD4(+) T cells characterized as CD45RA(-)CD28(+)CD95(+)CCR7(-) and also granzyme B(+), suggesting cytotoxic ability. Control of viremia was also concomitant with increases in humoral responses to Gag and Env, including a transient increase in neutralizing Abs against the neutralization-resistant SIVmac239 in four of five animals. These data demonstrate that a combination of cellular responses mediated by CD4(+) T cells and humoral responses was associated with the rapid control of the rebounding viremia in macaques infected by the Rev-independent live-attenuated SIV, even in the absence of measurable SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells in the blood, emphasizing the importance of different components of the immune response for full control of SIV infection.
We have previously reported that therapeutic immunization by intramuscular injection of optimized plasmid DNAs encoding SIV antigens effectively induces immune responses able to reduce viremia in antiretroviral therapy (ART)-treated SIVmac251-infected Indian rhesus macaques. We subjected such therapeutically immunized macaques to a second round of therapeutic vaccination using a combination of plasmids expressing SIV genes and the IL-15/IL-15 receptor alpha as molecular adjuvant, which were delivered by the more efficacious in vivo constant-current electroporation. A very strong induction of antigen-specific responses to Gag, Env, Nef, and Pol, during ART (1.2-1.6% of SIV-specific T cells in the circulating T lymphocytes) was obtained with the improved vaccination method. Immunological responses were characterized by the production of IFN-gamma, IL-2, and TNF-alpha either alone, or in combination as double or triple cytokine positive multifunctional T cells. A significant induction of CD4(+) T cell responses, mainly targeting Gag, Nef, and Pol, as well as of CD8(+) T cells, mainly targeting Env, was found in both T cells with central memory and effector memory markers. After release from ART, the animals showed a virological benefit with a further approximately 1 log reduction in viremia. Vaccination with plasmid DNAs has several advantages over other vaccine modalities, including the possibility for repeated administration, and was shown to induce potent, efficacious, and long-lasting recall immune responses. Therefore, these data support the concept of adding DNA vaccination to the HAART regimen to boost the HIV-specific immune responses.
Naïve Indian rhesus macaques were immunized with a mixture of optimized plasmid DNAs expressing several SIV antigens using in vivo electroporation via the intramuscular route. The animals were monitored for the development of SIV-specific systemic (blood) and mucosal (bronchoalveolar lavage) cellular and humoral immune responses. The immune responses were of great magnitude, broad (Gag, Pol, Nef, Tat and Vif), long-lasting (up to 90 weeks post third vaccination) and were boosted with each subsequent immunization, even after an extended 90-week rest period. The SIV-specific cellular immune responses were consistently more abundant in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) than in blood, and were characterized as predominantly effector memory CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in BAL and as both central and effector memory T cells in blood. SIV-specific T cells containing Granzyme B were readily detected in both blood and BAL, suggesting the presence of effector cells with cytolytic potential. DNA vaccination also elicited long-lasting systemic and mucosal humoral immune responses, including the induction of Gag-specific IgA. The combination of optimized DNA vectors and improved intramuscular delivery by in vivo electroporation has the potential to elicit both cellular and humoral responses and dissemination to the periphery, and thus to improve DNA immunization efficacy.
An effective HIV vaccine must elicit immune responses that recognize genetically diverse viruses. It must generate CD8+ T lymphocytes that control HIV replication and CD4+ T lymphocytes that provide help for the generation and maintenance of both cellular and humoral immune responses against the virus. Creating immunogens that can elicit cellular immune responses against the genetically varied circulating isolates of HIV presents a key challenge for creating an HIV vaccine. Polyvalent mosaic immunogens derived by in silico recombination of natural strains of HIV are designed to induce cellular immune responses that recognize genetically diverse circulating virus isolates. Here we immunized rhesus monkeys by plasmid DNA prime and recombinant vaccinia virus boost with vaccine constructs expressing either consensus or polyvalent mosaic proteins. As compared to consensus immunogens, the mosaic immunogens elicited CD8+ T lymphocyte responses to more epitopes of each viral protein than did the consensus immunogens and to more variant sequences of CD8+ T lymphocyte epitopes. This increased breadth and depth of epitope recognition may contribute both to protection against infection by genetically diverse viruses and to the control of variant viruses that emerge as they mutate away from recognition by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.
We have identified a subset of HIV-susceptible CD4(+)CCR5(+) cells in human PBMCs that can efficiently exclude protease inhibitors (PI) due to high P-glycoprotein (P-gp) efflux activity. Phenotypically these cells are heterogeneous, include both T and non-T cells, and some display markers of memory cells. Cells with high P-gp represent 16-56% (median = 37.3) of all CD4(+)CCR5(+) cells in healthy donors, and are selectively depleted in HIV-1-infected individuals (4.1-33%, median = 10.1). A fraction of primary cells productively infected by HIV-1, in vitro, have high P-gp pump activity, demonstrating that infection does not inhibit P-gp function. In agreement with these data, HIV-susceptible cells expressing high levels of P-gp require higher levels of PI for complete inhibition of virus spread. We conclude that the PI concentrations achieved in plasma could be suboptimal for full inhibition of virus spread in high P-gp cells, indicating that they may represent a pharmacological sanctuary for HIV-1.
Plasma viremia decreases coincident with the appearance of virus-specific CD8(+) T cells during acute HIV or SIV infection. This finding, along with demonstrations of viral mutational escape from CD8(+) T cell responses and transient increase in plasma viremia after depletion of CD8(+) T cells in SIV-infected monkeys strongly suggest a role for CD8(+) T cells in controlling HIV/SIV. However, direct quantitative or qualitative correlates between CD8(+) T cell activity and virus control have not been established. To directly assess the impact of large numbers of virus-specific CD8(+) T cells present at time of SIV infection, we transferred in vitro expanded autologous central and effector memory-derived Gag CM9-, Nef YY9-, and Vif WY8-specific CD8(+) T cell clones to acutely infected rhesus macaques. The cells persisted in PBMCs between 4 and 9 d, but were not detected in gut-associated lymphoid tissue or lymph nodes. Interestingly, a high frequency of the infused cells localized to the lungs, where they persisted at high frequency for >6 wk. Although persisting cells in the lungs were Ag reactive, there was no measurable effect on virus load. Sequencing of virus from the animal receiving Nef YY9-specific CD8(+) T cells demonstrated an escape mutation in this epitope <3 wk postinfection, consistent with immune selection pressure by the infused cells. These studies establish methods for adoptive transfer of autologous SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells for evaluating immune control during acute infection and demonstrate that infused cells retain function and persist for at least 2 mo in specific tissues.
The conserved mRNA export receptor NXF1 (Mex67 in yeast) assembles with messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNP) in the nucleus and guides them through the nuclear pore complex into the cytoplasm. The DEAD family RNA helicase Dbp5 is essential for nuclear export of mRNA and is thought to dissociate Mex67 from mRNP upon translocation, thereby generating directional passage. However, the molecular mechanism by which Dbp5 recognizes Mex67-containing mRNP is not clear. Here we report that the human NXF1-binding protein RBM15 binds specifically to human DBP5 and facilitates its direct contact with mRNA in vivo. We found that RBM15 is targeted to the nuclear envelope, where it colocalizes extensively with DBP5 and NXF1. Gene silencing of RBM15 leads to cytoplasmic depletion and nuclear accumulation of general mRNA as well as individual endogenous transcripts, indicating that RBM15 is required for efficient mRNA export. We propose a model in which RBM15 acts locally at the nuclear pore complex, by facilitating the recognition of NXF1-mRNP complexes by DBP5 during translocation, thereby contributing to efficient mRNA export.
Optimized plasmid DNAs encoding the majority of SIVmac239 proteins and delivered by electroporation (EP) elicited strong immune responses in rhesus macaques. Vaccination decreased viremia in both the acute and chronic phases of infection after challenge with pathogenic SIVmac251. Two groups of macaques were vaccinated with DNA plasmids producing different antigen forms, "native" and "modified," inducing distinct immune responses. Both groups showed significantly lower viremia during the acute phase of infection, whereas the group immunized with the native antigens showed better protection during the chronic phase (1.7 log decrease in virus load, P = 0.009). Both groups developed strong cellular and humoral responses against the DNA vaccine antigens, which included Gag, Pol, Env, Nef, and Tat. Vaccination induced both central memory and effector memory T cells that were maintained at the day of challenge, suggesting the potential for rapid mobilization upon virus challenge. The group receiving the native antigens developed higher and more durable anti-Env antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies at the day of challenge. These results demonstrate that DNA vaccination in the absence of any heterologous boost can provide protection from high viremia comparable to any other vaccine modalities tested in this macaque model.
The two known isoforms of IL-15 contain either a long signal peptide (LSP) or a short signal peptide (SSP), and are produced by alternatively spliced transcripts. It has been proposed that SSP IL-15 remains exclusively intracellular, and its function is unclear. In this study, we show that, similar to LSP IL-15, the SSP IL-15 is stabilized and secreted efficiently upon coexpression of IL-15Ralpha. Coinjection of SSP IL-15- and IL-15Ralpha-expressing plasmids into mice resulted in increased plasma levels of bioactive heterodimeric IL-15 and mobilization and expansion of NK and T cells. Therefore, SSP IL-15 is secreted and bioactive when produced as a heterodimer with IL-15Ralpha in the same cell. The apparent t(1/2) of this heterodimer is lower compared with LSP IL-15/IL-15Ralpha, due to different intracellular processing. Coexpression of both LSP IL-15 and SSP IL-15 in the presence of IL-15Ralpha results in lower levels of bioactive IL-15, indicating that LSP and SSP IL-15 compete for the binding to IL-15Ralpha when expressed in the same cell. Because the SSP IL-15 interaction to IL-15Ralpha leads to a complex with lower apparent stability, SSP IL-15 functions as competitive inhibitor of LSP IL-15. The data suggest that usage of alternative splicing is an additional level of control of IL-15 activity. Expression of both SSP and LSP forms of IL-15 appears to be conserved in many mammals, suggesting that SSP may be important for expressing a form of IL-15 with lower magnitude or duration of biological effects.
Propagation-defective vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) vectors that encode a truncated G protein (VSV-Gstem) or lack the G gene entirely (VSV-DeltaG) are attractive vaccine vectors because they are immunogenic, cannot replicate and spread after vaccination, and do not express many of the epitopes that elicit neutralizing anti-VSV immunity. To consider advancing non-propagating VSV vectors towards clinical assessment, scalable technology that is compliant with human vaccine manufacturing must be developed to produce clinical trial material. Accordingly, two propagation methods were developed for VSV-Gstem and VSV-DeltaG vectors encoding HIV gag that have the potential to support large-scale production. One method is based on transient expression of G protein after electroporating plasmid DNA into Vero cells and the second is based on a stable Vero cell line that contains a G gene controlled by a heat shock-inducible transcription unit. Both methods reproducibly supported production of 1 x 10(7) to 1 x 10(8) infectious units (I.U.s) of vaccine vector per milliliter. Results from these studies also showed that optimization of the G gene is necessary for abundant G protein expression from electroporated plasmid DNA or from DNA integrated in the genome of a stable cell line, and that the titers of VSV-Gstem vectors generally exceeded VSV-DeltaG.
The human SPEN family proteins SHARP, RBM15/OTT1, and RBM15B/OTT3 share the structural domain architecture but show distinct functional properties. Here, we examined the function of OTT3 and compared it with its paralogues RBM15 and SHARP. We found that OTT3, like RBM15, has post-transcriptional regulatory activity, whereas SHARP does not, supporting a divergent role of RBM15 and OTT3. OTT3 shares with RBM15 the association with the splicing factor compartment and the nuclear envelope as well as the binding to mRNA export factors NXF1 and Aly/REF. Mutational analysis revealed direct interaction of OTT3 and RBM15 with NXF1 via their C-terminal regions. Biochemical and subcellular localization studies showed that OTT3 and RBM15 also interact with each other in vivo, further supporting a shared function. Genetic knockdown of RBM15 in mouse is embryonically lethal, indicating that OTT3 cannot compensate for the RBM15 loss, which supports the notion that these proteins, in addition to sharing similar activities, likely have distinct biological roles.
Recent studies have revealed the critical role of programmed death-1 (PD-1) in exhaustion of HIV- and SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells. In this study, we show that high expression of PD-1 correlates with increased ex vivo spontaneous and CD95/Fas-induced apoptosis, particularly in the "effector-memory" CD8(+) T cell population from HIV(+) donors. High expression of PD-1 was linked to a proapoptotic phenotype characterized by low expression of Bcl-2 and IL7-R alpha, high expression of CD95/Fas and high mitochondrial mass. Expression of PD-1 and CD57 was differentially associated with the maturation status of CD8(+) T cells in HIV infection. CD57 was linked to higher apoptosis resistance, with cells expressing a PD-1(L)CD57(H) phenotype exhibiting lower levels of cell death. The majority of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells were found to express a PD-1(H)CD57(L) or PD-1(H)CD57(H) phenotype. No correlation was found between PD-1 expression and ex vivo polyfunctionality of either HIV- or CMV-specific CD8(+) T cells. Contrary to CD57, high expression of PD-1 was characterized by translocation of PD-1 into the area of CD95/Fas-capping, an early necessary step of CD95/Fas-induced apoptosis. Thus, our data further support the role of PD-1 as a preapoptotic factor for CD8(+) T cells in HIV infection.
IL-27 exerts antitumor activity in murine orthotopic neuroblastoma, but only partial antitumor effect in disseminated disease. This study demonstrates that combined treatment with IL-2 and IL-27 induces potent antitumor activity in disseminated neuroblastoma metastasis. Complete durable tumor regression was achieved in 90% of mice bearing metastatic TBJ-IL-27 tumors treated with IL-2 compared with only 40% of mice bearing TBJ-IL-27 tumors alone and 0% of mice bearing TBJ-FLAG tumors with or without IL-2 treatment. Comparable antitumor effects were achieved by IL-27 protein produced upon hydrodynamic IL-27 plasmid DNA delivery when combined with IL-2. Although delivery of IL-27 alone, or in combination with IL-2, mediated pronounced regression of neuroblastoma metastases in the liver, combined delivery of IL-27 and IL-2 was far more effective than IL-27 alone against bone marrow metastases. Combined exposure to IL-27 produced by tumor and IL-2 synergistically enhances the generation of tumor-specific CTL reactivity. Potentiation of CTL reactivity by IL-27 occurs via mechanisms that appear to be engaged during both the initial sensitization and effector phase. Potent immunologic memory responses are generated in mice cured of their disseminated disease by combined delivery of IL-27 and IL-2, and depletion of CD8(+) ablates the antitumor efficacy of this combination. Moreover, IL-27 delivery can inhibit the expansion of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory and IL-17-expressing CD4(+) cells that are otherwise observed among tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes from mice treated with IL-2. These studies demonstrate that IL-27 and IL-2 synergistically induce complete tumor regression and long-term survival in mice bearing widely metastatic neuroblastoma tumors.
Optimized DNA expression vectors encoding the native HIV-1 Gag or a fusion of Gag with the lysosomal membrane associated protein 1 (LAMP) were compared for immunogenicity upon intramuscular DNA delivery in rhesus macaques. Both vaccines elicited CD4(+) T-cell responses, but with significant differences in the phenotype of the Gag-specific cells: the native Gag induced CD4(+) responses with a phenotype of central memory-like T cells (CD28(+) CD45RA(-)), whereas the LAMP/Gag chimera induced CD4(+) responses with effector memory phenotype (CD28(-) CD45RA(-)). Antigen-specific T cells producing both IFN-gamma and TNFalpha were found in the animals receiving the native Gag, whereas the LAMP/Gag chimera induced humoral responses faster. These results demonstrate that modification of intracellular Gag trafficking results in the induction of distinct immune responses. Combinations of DNA vectors encoding both forms of antigen may be more potent in eliciting anti-HIV-1 immunity.
Intramuscular injection of macaques with an IL-12 expression plasmid (0.1 or 0.4 mg DNA/animal) optimized for high level of expression and delivered using in vivo electroporation, resulted in the detection of systemic IL-12 cytokine in the plasma. Peak levels obtained by day 4-5 post injection were paralleled by a rapid increase of IFN-?, indicating bioactivity of the IL-12 cytokine. Both plasma IL-12 and IFN-? levels were reduced to basal levels by day 14, indicating a short presence of elevated levels of the bioactive IL-12. The effect of IL-12 as adjuvant together with an SIVmac239 DNA vaccine was further examined comparing two groups of rhesus macaques vaccinated in the presence or absence of IL-12 DNA. The IL-12 DNA-adjuvanted group developed significantly higher SIV-specific cellular immune responses, including IFN-? (+) Granzyme B (+) T cells, demonstrating increased levels of vaccine-induced T cells with cytotoxic potential, and this difference persisted for 6 mo after the last vaccination. Coinjection of IL-12 DNA led to increases in Gag-specific CD4 (+) and CD4 (+) CD8 (+) double-positive memory T cell subsets, whereas the Env-specific increases were mainly mediated by the CD8 (+) and CD4 (+) CD8 (+) double-positive memory T cell subsets. The IL-12 DNA-adjuvanted vaccine group developed higher binding antibody titers to Gag and mac251 Env, and showed higher and more durable neutralizing antibodies to heterologous SIVsmE660. Therefore, co-delivery of IL-12 DNA with the SIV DNA vaccine enhanced the magnitude and breadth of immune responses in immunized rhesus macaques, and supports the inclusion of IL-12 DNA as vaccine adjuvant.
IL-15 is an important cytokine for the function of the immune system, but the form(s) of IL-15 produced in the human body are not fully characterized. Coexpression of the single-chain IL-15 and the IL-15 receptor alpha (IL-15R?) in the same cell allows for efficient production, surface display, and eventual cleavage and secretion of the bioactive IL-15/IL-15R? heterodimer in vivo, whereas the single-chain IL-15 is poorly secreted and unstable. This observation led to the hypothesis that IL-15 is produced and secreted only as a heterodimer with IL-15R?. We purified human IL-15/IL-15R? complexes from overproducing human cell lines and developed an ELISA specifically measuring the heterodimeric form of IL-15. Analysis of sera from melanoma patients after lymphodepletion revealed the presence of circulating IL-15/IL-15R? complexes in amounts similar to the total IL-15 quantified by a commercial IL-15 ELISA that detects both the single-chain and the heterodimeric forms of the cytokine. Therefore, in lymphodepleted cancer patients, the serum IL-15 is exclusively present in its heterodimeric form. Analysis of the form of IL-15 present in either normal or lymphodepleted mice agrees with the human data. These results have important implications for development of assays and materials for clinical applications of IL-15.
Cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses targeting specific HIV proteins, in particular Gag, have been associated with relative control of viral replication in vivo. However, Gag-specific CTL can also be detected in individuals who do not control the virus and it remains thus unclear how Gag-specific CTL may mediate the beneficial effects in some individuals but not in others. Here, we used a 10mer peptide set spanning HIV Gag-p24 to determine immunogen-specific T-cell responses and to assess functional properties including functional avidity and cross-reactivity in 25 HIV-1 controllers and 25 non-controllers without protective HLA class I alleles. Our data challenge the common belief that Gag-specific T cell responses dominate the virus-specific immunity exclusively in HIV-1 controllers as both groups mounted responses of comparable breadths and magnitudes against the p24 sequence. However, responses in controllers reacted to lower antigen concentrations and recognized more epitope variants than responses in non-controllers. These cross-sectional data, largely independent of particular HLA genetics and generated using direct ex-vivo samples thus identify T cell responses of high functional avidity and with broad variant reactivity as potential functional immune correlates of relative HIV control.
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