by Adel Benlahrech, Andrea Meiser, Shanthi Herath, Timos Papagatsias, Takis Athanasopoulos, Fucheng Li, Steve Self, Veronique Bachy, Catherine Hervouet, Karen Logan, Linda Klavinskis, George Dickson, Steven Patterson
High mutation rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) allows escape from T cell recognition preventing development of effective T cell vaccines. Vaccines that induce diverse T cell immune responses would help overcome this problem. Using SIV gag as a model vaccine, we investigated two approaches to increase the breadth of the CD8 T cell response. Namely, fusion of vaccine genes to ubiquitin to target the proteasome and increase levels of MHC class I peptide complexes and gene fragmentation to overcome competition between epitopes for presentation and recognition. Methodology/Principal Findings
Three vaccines were compared: full-length unmodified SIV-mac239 gag, full-length gag fused at the N-terminus to ubiquitin and 7 gag fragments of equal size spanning the whole of gag with ubiquitin-fused to the N-terminus of each fragment. Genes were cloned into a replication defective adenovirus vector and immunogenicity assessed in an in vitro human priming system. The breadth of the CD8 T cell response, defined by the number of distinct epitopes, was assessed by IFN-?-ELISPOT and memory phenotype and cytokine production evaluated by flow cytometry. We observed an increase of two- to six-fold in the number of epitopes recognised in the ubiquitin-fused fragments compared to the ubiquitin-fused full-length gag. In contrast, although proteasomal targeting was achieved, there was a marked reduction in the number of epitopes recognised in the ubiquitin-fused full-length gag compared to the full-length unmodified gene, but there were no differences in the number of epitope responses induced by non-ubiquitinated full-length gag and the ubiquitin-fused mini genes. Fragmentation and ubiquitination did not affect T cell memory differentiation and polyfunctionality, though most responses were directed against the Ad5 vector. Conclusion/Significance
Fragmentation but not fusion with ubiquitin increases the breadth of the CD8 T vaccine response against SIV-mac239 gag. Thus gene fragmentation of HIV vaccines may maximise responses.