Investigative ophthalmology & visual science

A Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Human Asymptomatic CD8+ T-Cell Epitopes-Based Vaccine Protects Against Ocular Herpes in a "Humanized" HLA Transgenic Rabbit Model.

PMID 26098469


A clinical vaccine that protects from ocular herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection and disease still is lacking. In the present study, preclinical vaccine trials of nine asymptomatic (ASYMP) peptides, selected from HSV-1 glycoproteins B (gB), and tegument proteins VP11/12 and VP13/14, were performed in the "humanized" HLA-transgenic rabbit (HLA-Tg rabbit) model of ocular herpes. We recently reported that these peptides are highly recognized by CD8+ T cells from "naturally" protected HSV-1-seropositive healthy ASYMP individuals (who have never had clinical herpes disease). Mixtures of three ASYMP CD8+ T-cell peptides derived from either HSV-1 gB, VP11/12, or VP13/14 were delivered subcutaneously to different groups of HLA-Tg rabbits (n = 10) in incomplete Freund's adjuvant, twice at 15-day intervals. The frequency and function of HSV-1 epitope-specific CD8+ T cells induced by these peptides and their protective efficacy, in terms of survival, virus replication in the eye, and ocular herpetic disease were assessed after an ocular challenge with HSV-1 (strain McKrae). All mixtures elicited strong and polyfunctional IFN-γ- and TNF-α-producing CD107+CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, associated with a significant reduction in death, ocular herpes infection, and disease (P < 0.015). The results of this preclinical trial support the screening strategy used to select the HSV-1 ASYMP CD8+ T-cell epitopes, emphasize their valuable immunogenic and protective efficacy against ocular herpes, and provide a prototype vaccine formulation that may be highly efficacious for preventing ocular herpes in humans.