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Strong HCV NS3/4a, NS4b, NS5a, NS5b-specific cellular immune responses induced in Rhesus macaques by a novel HCV genotype 1a/1b consensus DNA vaccine.

Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics (2014-11-27)
Brian Latimer, Roberta Toporovski, Jian Yan, Panyupa Pankhong, Matthew P Morrow, Amir S Khan, Niranjan Y Sardesai, Seth L Welles, Jeffrey M Jacobson, David B Weiner, Michele A Kutzler
RESUMEN

Chronic HCV is a surreptitious disease currently affecting approximately 3% of the world's population that can lead to liver failure and cancer decades following initial infection. However, there are currently no vaccines available for the prevention of chronic HCV. From patients who acutely resolve HCV infection, it is apparent that a strong and broad cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response is important in HCV clearance. DNA vaccines are naked plasmid DNA molecules that encode pathogen antigens to induce a pathogen-specific immune response. They are inexpensive to produce and have an excellent safety profile in animals and humans. Additionally, DNA vaccines are able to induce strong CTL responses, making them well-suited for an HCV vaccine. We aimed to maximize vaccine recipients' opportunity to induce a broad T cell response with a novel antigenic sequence, multi-antigen vaccine strategy. We have generated DNA plasmids encoding consensus sequences of HCV genotypes 1a and 1b non-structural proteins NS3/4a, NS4b, NS5a, and NS5b. Rhesus macaques were used to study the immunogenicity of these constructs. Four animals were immunized 3 times, 6 weeks apart, at a dose of 1.0mg per antigen construct, as an intramuscular injection followed by in vivo electroporation, which greatly increases DNA uptake by local cells. Immune responses were measured 2 weeks post-immunization regimen (PIR) in immunized rhesus macaques and showed a broad response to multiple HCV nonstructural antigens, with up to 4680 spot-forming units per million peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as measured by Interferon-γ ELISpot. In addition, multiparametric flow cytometry detected HCV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses by intracellular cytokine staining and detected HCV-specific CD107a+/GrzB+ CD8+ T cells indicating an antigen specific cytolytic response 2 weeks PIR compared with baseline measurements. At the final study time point, 6 weeks PIR, HCV-specific CD45RA- memory-like T cells remained detectable in peripheral blood. Data presented in this manuscript support the notion that vaccine immunogenicity studies using a macaque model can be used to depict key anti-HCV nonstructural antigenic cellular immune responses and support the development of DNA-based prophylactic HCV vaccines.

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