There is a need to develop a universal vaccine against influenza virus infection to avoid developing new formulations of a seasonal vaccine each year. Many of the vaccine strategies for a universal vaccine target strain-conserved influenza virus proteins, such as the matrix, polymerase, and nucleoproteins, rather than the surface hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins. In addition, non-disease-causing viral vectors are a popular choice as a delivery system for the influenza virus antigens. As a proof-of-concept, we have designed a novel influenza virus immunogen based on the NP backbone containing human T cell epitopes for M1, NS1, NP, PB1 and PA proteins (referred as NPmix) as well as a construct containing the conserved regions of influenza virus neuraminidase (N-terminal) and hemagglutinin (C-terminal) (referred as NA-HA). DNA vectors and vaccinia virus recombinants expressing NPmix (WR-NP) or both NPmix plus NA-HA (WR-flu) in the cytosol were tested in a heterologous DNA-prime/vaccinia virus-boost vaccine regimen in mice. We observed an increase in the number of influenza virus-specific IFN?-secreting splenocytes, composed of populations marked by CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells producing IFN? or TNF?. Upon challenge with influenza virus, the vaccinated mice exhibited decreased viral load in the lungs and a delay in mortality. These findings suggest that DNA prime/poxvirus boost with human multi-epitope recombinant influenza virus proteins is a valid approach for a general T-cell vaccine to protect against influenza virus infection.
Attenuated poxviruses are safe and capable of expressing foreign antigens. Poxviruses are applied in veterinary vaccination and explored as candidate vaccines for humans. However, poxviruses express multiple genes encoding proteins that interfere with components of the innate and adaptive immune response. This manuscript describes two strategies aimed to improve the immunogenicity of the highly attenuated, host-range restricted poxvirus NYVAC: deletion of the viral gene encoding type-I interferon-binding protein and development of attenuated replication-competent NYVAC. We evaluated these newly generated NYVAC mutants, encoding HIV-1 env, gag, pol and nef, for their ability to stimulate HIV-specific CD8 T-cell responses in vitro from blood mononuclear cells of HIV-infected subjects. The new vectors were evaluated and compared to the parental NYVAC vector in dendritic cells (DCs), RNA expression arrays, HIV gag expression and cross-presentation assays in vitro. Deletion of type-I interferon-binding protein enhanced expression of interferon and interferon-induced genes in DCs, and increased maturation of infected DCs. Restoration of replication competence induced activation of pathways involving antigen processing and presentation. Also, replication-competent NYVAC showed increased Gag expression in infected cells, permitting enhanced cross-presentation to HIV-specific CD8 T cells and proliferation of HIV-specific memory CD8 T-cells in vitro. The recombinant NYVAC combining both modifications induced interferon-induced genes and genes involved in antigen processing and presentation, as well as increased Gag expression. This combined replication-competent NYVAC is a promising candidate for the next generation of HIV vaccines.
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