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1.  Novel methods for expression of foreign antigens in live vector vaccines 
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics  2013;9(7):1558-1564.
Bacterial live vector vaccines represent a vaccine development strategy that offers exceptional flexibility. In this approach, genes encoding protective antigens of unrelated bacterial, viral or parasitic pathogens are expressed in an attenuated bacterial vaccine strain that delivers these foreign antigens to the immune system, thereby eliciting relevant immune responses. Rather than expressing these antigens using low copy expression plasmids, here we pursue expression of foreign proteins from the live vector chromosome. Our strategy is designed to compensate for the inherent disadvantage of loss of gene dosage (vs. plasmid-based expression) by integrating antigen-encoding gene cassettes into multiple chromosomal sites already inactivated in an attenuated Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi vaccine candidate. We tested expression of a cassette encoding the green fluorescent protein (GFPuv) integrated separately into native guaBA, htrA or clyA chromosomal loci. Using single integrations, we show that expression levels of GFPuv are significantly affected by the site of integration, regardless of the inclusion of additional strong promoters within the incoming cassette. Using cassettes integrated into both guaBA and htrA, we observe cumulative synthesis levels from two integration sites superior to single integrations. Most importantly, we observe that GFPuv expression increases in a growth phase-dependent manner, suggesting that foreign antigen synthesis may be “tuned” to the physiology of the live vaccine. We expect this novel platform expression technology to prove invaluable in the development of a wide variety of multivalent live vector vaccines, capable of expressing multiple antigens from both chromosomal and plasmid-based expression systems within a single strain.
PMCID: PMC3890216  PMID: 23406777
Salmonella; chromosomal expression; foreign gene; live vector; vaccine
2.  Live bacterial vaccines – a review and identification of potential hazards 
The use of live bacteria to induce an immune response to itself or to a carried vaccine component is an attractive vaccine strategy. Advantages of live bacterial vaccines include their mimicry of a natural infection, intrinsic adjuvant properties and their possibility to be administered orally. Derivatives of pathogenic and non-pathogenic food related bacteria are currently being evaluated as live vaccines. However, pathogenic bacteria demands for attenuation to weaken its virulence. The use of bacteria as vaccine delivery vehicles implies construction of recombinant strains that contain the gene cassette encoding the antigen. With the increased knowledge of mucosal immunity and the availability of genetic tools for heterologous gene expression the concept of live vaccine vehicles gains renewed interest. However, administration of live bacterial vaccines poses some risks. In addition, vaccination using recombinant bacteria results in the release of live recombinant organisms into nature. This places these vaccines in the debate on application of genetically modified organisms. In this review we give an overview of live bacterial vaccines on the market and describe the development of new live vaccines with a focus on attenuated bacteria and food-related lactic acid bacteria. Furthermore, we outline the safety concerns and identify the hazards associated with live bacterial vaccines and try to give some suggestions of what to consider during their development.
PMCID: PMC1538998  PMID: 16796731
3.  Efficacy of a Lactococcus lactis ΔpyrG vaccine delivery platform expressing chromosomally integrated hly from Listeria monocytogenes 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(1):66-74.
Listeria monocytogenes is a significant food-borne pathogen and the causative agent of listeriosis, a disease which manifests as meningitis in immunocompromised adults or infection of the fetus and miscarriage in pregnant women. We have previously used Lactococcus lactis, a GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) organism, as a vaccine vector against listeriosis by engineering plasmid-mediated expression of the immunodominant antigen from L. monocytogenes, listeriolysin O (LLO). However, the environmental release of an engineered vaccine vector carrying a replicating plasmid during clinical usage may raise safety concerns. Here we describe the integration of the LLO gene (hly) into the L. lactis chromosome through homologous double crossover to allow stable expression, in order to avoid the use of antibiotic selection markers and to eliminate the requirement for a plasmid-based system. The approach was designed to simultaneously eliminate the pyrG gene encoding the CTP synthase which is responsible for converting UTP to CTP in a unique step in the de novo pyrimidine synthesis in L. lactis. This gene was targeted in order to restrict bacterial replication outside of the host (biological containment). The resulting cytidine auxotroph was able to secrete LLO constitutively and could elicit LLO91–99-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes in the murine infection model. Moreover, protection against lethal challenge with L. monocytogenes was accomplished after intraperitoneal (IP) vaccination with the constructed strain. The implications for the use of cytidine auxotropy in biological containment are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3035148  PMID: 21327128
Lactococcus lactis; biological containment; listeriolysin O; pyrG; hly; vaccine
4.  Antibiotic-Free Plasmid Stabilization by Operator-Repressor Titration for Vaccine Delivery by Using Live Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(4):2005-2011.
Live, attenuated bacteria are effective vectors for heterologous antigen delivery. However, loss of heterologous gene-bearing plasmids is problematic, and antibiotics and their resistance genes are not desirable for in vivo DNA vaccine delivery due to biosafety and regulatory concerns. To solve this problem, we engineered the first vaccine delivery strain that has no requirement for antibiotics or other selectable marker genes to maintain the recombinant plasmid. This model strain of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, SLDAPD, uses operator-repressor titration (ORT) technology, which requires only the short, nonexpressed lacO sequence for selection and maintenance. SLDAPD, recovered from the spleens and Peyer's patches of mice following oral inoculation, was shown to maintain a plasmid that, in contrast, was lost from parental strain SL3261. We also demonstrated successful application of this technology to vaccine development, since SLDAPD carrying a plasmid without an antibiotic resistance gene that expressed the Yersinia pestis F1 antigen was as efficacious in protecting vaccinated mice against plague as the parental SL3261 strain carrying an antibiotic-selected version of this plasmid. Protection of mice against plague by immunization with Salmonella expressing F1 has previously required two or more doses; here we demonstrated for the first time protective immunity after a single oral immunization. This technology can easily be used to convert any suitable attenuated strain to an antibiotic-free ORT strain for recombinant protein vaccine delivery in humans.
PMCID: PMC1087430  PMID: 15784541
5.  Optimal epitope composition after antigen screening using a live bacterial delivery vector 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(1):51-60.
Immunotherapeutic approaches, based on the generation of tumor-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL), are currently emerging as promising strategies of anti-tumor therapy. The potential use of attenuated bacteria as engineered vectors for vaccine development offers several advantages, including the stimulation of innate immunity. We developed an attenuated live bacterial vector using the type III secretion system (TTSS) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to deliver in vivo tumor antigens. Using an inducible and rapid expression plasmid, vaccination with several antigens of different length and epitope composition, including TRp-2, gp100 and MUC18, was evaluated against glioma tumor cells. We observed similar CTL immunity and T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire diversity with the vaccines, TRP2125–243, TRP2L125–376 and TRP2S291–376. However, only immunization with TRP2L125–376 induced significant anti-tumor immunity. Taken together, our data indicate the importance of the epitopes composition and/or peptide length of these peptides for inducing cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) mediated immunity. Characteristics that consistently improved anti-tumor immunity include: long peptides with immunodominant and cryptic CD8+ epitopes, and strong CD4+ Th epitopes. Our bacterial vector is versatile, easy-to-use and quick to produce. This vector is suitable for rapid screening and evaluation of antigens of varying length and epitope composition.
PMCID: PMC3035149  PMID: 21327126
antigen delivery system; bacteria; TTSS; cancer immunotherapy; epitope; TRP-2
6.  Progress toward the development of polyvalent vaccination strategies against multiple viral infections in chickens using herpesvirus of turkeys as vector 
Bioengineered  2012;3(4):222-226.
Vaccination is the most cost effective strategy for the control and prevention of the plethora of viral diseases affecting poultry production. The major challenge for poultry vaccination is the design of vaccines that will protect against multiple pathogens via a single protective dose, delivered by mass vaccination. The Marek disease virus and the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus cause severe disease outbreaks in chickens. Vaccination with live herpesvirus of turkeys protects chickens from Marek disease and inactivated influenza viruses are used as antigens to protect chickens against influenza virus infections. We developed herpesvirus of turkeys (HVT) as a vaccine vector that can act as a dual vaccine against avian influenza and Marek disease. The HVT vector was developed using reverse genetics based on an infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clone of HVT. The BAC carrying the HVT genome was genetically modified to express the haemagglutinin (HA) gene of a highly pathogenic H7N1 virus. The resultant recombinant BAC construct containing the modified HVT sequence was transfected into chicken embryo fibroblast (CEF) cells and HVT recombinants (rHVT-H7HA) harbouring the H7N1 HA were recovered. Analysis of cultured CEF cells infected with the rHVT-H7HA showed that HA was expressed and that the rescued rHVT-H7HA stocks were stable during several in vitro passages with no difference in growth kinetics compared with the parent HVT. Immunization of one-day-old chicks with rHVT-H7HA induced H7-specific antibodies and protected chickens challenged with homologous H7N1 virus against virus shedding, clinical disease and death. The rHVT-H7HA vaccine also induced strong and long-lasting antibody titers against H7HA in chickens that were vaccinated in ovo 3 d before hatching. This vaccine supports differentiation between infected and vaccinated animals (DIVA), because no influenza virus nucleoprotein-specific antibodies were detected in the rHVT-H7HA vaccinated birds. The rHVT-H7HA not only provided protection against a lethal challenge with highly pathogenic H7N1 virus but also against highly virulent Marek disease virus and can be used as a DIVA vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3476869  PMID: 22705840
HVT BAC; Marek’s disease; avian; avian influenza; highly pathogenic H7N1 avian influenza virus; in ovo vaccination; multivalent vaccine; poultry; recombinant herpesvirus of turkeys; vector-based vaccine
7.  Induction of Specific CD8+ T Cells against Intracellular Bacteria by CD8+ T-Cell-Oriented Immunization Approaches 
For protection against intracellular bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Listeria monocytogenes, the cellular arm of adaptive immunity is necessary. A variety of immunization methods have been evaluated and are reported to induce specific CD8+ T cells against intracellular bacterial infection. Modified BCG vaccines have been examined to enhance CD8+ T-cell responses. Naked DNA vaccination is a promising strategy to induce CD8+ T cells. In addition to this strategy, live attenuated intracellular bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella, and Listeria have been utilized as carriers of DNA vaccines in animal models. Vaccination with dendritic cells pulsed with antigenic peptides or the cells introduced antigen genes by virus vectors such as retroviruses is also a powerful strategy. Furthermore, vaccination with recombinant lentivirus has been attempted to induce specific CD8+ T cells. Combinations of these strategies (prime-boost immunization) have been studied for the efficient induction of intracellular bacteria-specific CD8+ T cells.
PMCID: PMC2875770  PMID: 20508818
8.  Listeria monocytogenes-Based Antibiotic Resistance Gene-Free Antigen Delivery System Applicable to Other Bacterial Vectors and DNA Vaccines  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(11):6418-6425.
Plasmids represent a powerful tool to rapidly introduce genes into bacteria and help them reach high expression levels. In vaccine development, with live vaccine vectors, this allows greater flexibility and the ability to induce larger antigen amounts through multiple gene copies. However, plasmid retention often requires antibiotic resistance markers, the presence of which has been discouraged in clinical applications by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, we developed a Listeria monocytogenes-Escherichia coli shuttle plasmid that is retained by complementation of d-alanine racemase-deficient mutant strains both in vitro and in vivo. Our technology potentially allows the production of antibiotic resistance marker-free DNA vaccines as well as bacterial vaccine vectors devoid of engineered antibiotic resistances. As a proof of concept, we applied the d-alanine racemase complementation system to our Listeria cancer vaccine platform. With a transplantable tumor model, we compared the efficacy of the new Listeria vector to that of an established vector containing a conventional plasmid carrying a tumor-specific antigen. Both vaccine vector systems resulted in long-term regression of established tumors, with no significant difference between them. Thus, the Listeria vaccine vector presented here potentially complies with Food and Drug Administration regulations and could be developed further for clinical use.
PMCID: PMC523039  PMID: 15501772
9.  Use of mchI Encoding Immunity to the Antimicrobial Peptide Microcin H47 as a Plasmid Selection Marker in Attenuated Bacterial Live Vectors▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(10):4422-4430.
Live attenuated bacterial strains expressing heterologous antigens represent an attractive vaccine development strategy. However, the use of drug resistance genes for the selection of expression plasmids introduced into live vectors poses theoretical health risks. Therefore, we developed a novel approach for plasmid selection based on immunity to the antimicrobial peptide microcin H47 (MccH47). Two expression plasmids encoding the reporter green fluorescent protein (GFPuv) were constructed; selection markers comprised either mchI, conferring immunity to MccH47 (pGEN222I), or bla (encoding β-lactamase), conferring conventional resistance to ampicillin (pGEN222). GFPuv-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody responses were analyzed in mice immunized intranasally either with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi CVD 908-htrA or Shigella flexneri 2a CVD 1208S live vector and were boosted parenterally with purified GFPuv. Similar IgG antibody responses were observed for both pGEN222 and pGEN222I when either CVD 1208S or CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222I) was used as the carrier. Interestingly, CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222I) elicited a significantly higher IgG response than CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222). We also compared the priming potential of homologous priming either with CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222I) or CVD 1208S(pGEN222I) to heterologous priming first with CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222I) and then with CVD 1208S(pGEN222I) and vice versa. Immunization with two unrelated live vectors significantly enhanced the IgG responses compared to responses engendered by homologous CVD 908-htrA(pGEN222I) but not to those of CVD 1208S(pGEN222I). MccH47 offers an alternate system for plasmid selection in bacterial live vectors that greatly improves their clinical acceptability. Furthermore, the success of the heterologous priming strategy supports the feasibility of the future development of multivalent live vector-based immunization strategies against multiple human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2546845  PMID: 18663003
10.  Comparative immunological evaluation of recombinant Salmonella Typhimurium strains expressing model antigens as live oral vaccines 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:54.
Despite the development of various systems to generate live recombinant Salmonella Typhimurium vaccine strains, little work has been performed to systematically evaluate and compare their relative immunogenicity. Such information would provide invaluable guidance for the future rational design of live recombinant Salmonella oral vaccines.
To compare vaccine strains encoded with different antigen delivery and expression strategies, a series of recombinant Salmonella Typhimurium strains were constructed that expressed either the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) or a fragment of the hemagglutinin (HA) protein from the H5N1 influenza virus, as model antigens. The antigens were expressed from the chromosome, from high or low-copy plasmids, or encoded on a eukaryotic expression plasmid. Antigens were targeted for expression in either the cytoplasm or the outer membrane. Combinations of strategies were employed to evaluate the efficacy of combined delivery/expression approaches. After investigating in vitro and in vivo antigen expression, growth and infection abilities; the immunogenicity of the constructed recombinant Salmonella strains was evaluated in mice. Using the soluble model antigen EGFP, our results indicated that vaccine strains with high and stable antigen expression exhibited high B cell responses, whilst eukaryotic expression or colonization with good construct stability was critical for T cell responses. For the insoluble model antigen HA, an outer membrane expression strategy induced better B cell and T cell responses than a cytoplasmic strategy. Most notably, the combination of two different expression strategies did not increase the immune response elicited.
Through systematically evaluating and comparing the immunogenicity of the constructed recombinant Salmonella strains in mice, we identified their respective advantages and deleterious or synergistic effects. Different construction strategies were optimally-required for soluble versus insoluble forms of the protein antigens. If an antigen, such as EGFP, is soluble and expressed at high levels, a low-copy plasmid-cytoplasmic expression strategy is recommended; since it provokes the highest B cell responses and also induces good T cell responses. If a T cell response is preferred, a eukaryotic expression plasmid or a chromosome-based, cytoplasmic-expression strategy is more effective. For insoluble antigens such as HA, an outer membrane expression strategy is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3503649  PMID: 23013063
Salmonella Typhimurium; Live oral vaccine; Soluble and insoluble antigens; Construction strategies; Immunological comparison
11.  Induction of neonatal tolerance by plasmid DNA vaccination of mice. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1996;98(12):2700-2705.
Plasmid DNA vaccines capable of preventing viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections are currently under development. Our labs have shown that a plasmid DNA vaccine encoding the circumsporozoite protein of the malaria parasite elicits protective immunity against live sporozoite challenge in adult BALB/c mice. We now find that the same DNA vaccine induces tolerance rather than immunity when administered to 2-5 d-old mice. Neonatally tolerized animals were unable to mount antibody, cytokine or cytotoxic responses when rechallenged with DNA vaccine in vitro or in vivo. Tolerance was specific for immunogenic epitopes expressed by the vaccine-encoded, endogenously produced antigen. Mice challenged with exogenous circumsporozoite protein produced antibodies against a different set of epitopes, and were not tolerized. These findings demonstrate important differences in the nature and specificity of the immune response elicited by DNA vaccines versus conventional protein immunogens.
PMCID: PMC507733  PMID: 8981914
12.  Retrotransfer in Escherichia coli conjugation: bidirectional exchange or de novo mating? 
Journal of Bacteriology  1993;175(3):583-588.
DNA can be transferred among eubacteria and to plants and fungi by related, plasmid-mediated processes collectively referred to as bacterial conjugation. Conjugation occurs between cells in contact with one another and results in the unidirectional delivery of DNA from a bacterial donor to a recipient. Recent experiments that have reexamined the directionality of DNA flow during conjugation have come to different conclusions, some suggesting that genetic material also flows from recipient cells into the donor and that this process, termed retrotransfer, is likewise directed by donor-encoded functions. Given that bacteria are perhaps united with all living creatures by conjugation, the possibility of gene flow into donor bacteria during conjugation raises interesting evolutionary and biocontainment issues. Here we report that plasmid transmission from bacterial recipients to donors is not a donor-mediated event. Movement of genetic material from recipients to donors was inhibited by streptomycin, which does not inhibit the conjugative donor, indicating that retrotransfer requires gene expression in recipients. Furthermore, retrotransfer was reduced in matings mediated by plasmids that encode strong entry exclusion, to a similar degree as matings between two donors. Therefore we suggest that retrotransfer is in fact newly initiated conjugation between transconjugants and donors.
PMCID: PMC196192  PMID: 8423133
13.  Selection and characterization of a promoter for expression of single-copy recombinant genes in Gram-positive bacteria 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:3.
In the past ten years there has been a growing interest in engineering Gram-positive bacteria for biotechnological applications, including vaccine delivery and production of recombinant proteins. Usually, bacteria are manipulated using plasmid expression vectors. The major limitation of this approach is due to the fact that recombinant plasmids are often lost from the bacterial culture upon removal of antibiotic selection. We have developed a genetic system based on suicide vectors on conjugative transposons allowing stable integration of recombinant DNA into the chromosome of transformable and non-transformable Gram-positive bacteria.
The aim of this work was to select a strong chromosomal promoter from Streptococcus gordonii to improve this genetic system making it suitable for expression of single-copy recombinant genes. To achieve this task, a promoterless gene encoding a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat), was randomly integrated into the S. gordonii chromosome and transformants were selected for chloramphenicol resistance. Three out of eighteen chloramphenicol resistant transformants selected exhibited 100% stability of the phenotype and only one of them, GP215, carried the cat gene integrated as a single copy. A DNA fragment of 600 base pairs exhibiting promoter activity was isolated from GP215 and sequenced. The 5' end of its corresponding mRNA was determined by primer extention analysis and the putative -10 and a -35 regions were identified. To study the possibility of using this promoter (PP) for single copy heterologous gene expression, we created transcriptional fusions of PP with genes encoding surface recombinant proteins in a vector capable of integrating into the conjugative transposon Tn916. Surface recombinant proteins whose expression was controlled by the PP promoter were detected in Tn916-containing strains of S. gordonii and Bacillus subtilis after single copy chromosomal integration of the recombinant insertion vectors into the resident Tn916. The surface recombinant protein synthesized under the control of PP was also detected in Enterococcus faecalis after conjugal transfer of a recombinant Tn916 containing the transcriptional fusion.
We isolated and characterized a S. gordonii chromosomal promoter. We demonstrated that this promoter can be used to direct expression of heterologous genes in different Gram-positive bacteria, when integrated in a single copy into the chromosome.
PMCID: PMC548306  PMID: 15651989
14.  Induction of Antigen-Specific Th1-Type Immune Responses by Gamma-Irradiated Recombinant Brucella abortus RB51 
Brucella abortus strain RB51 is an attenuated rough mutant used as the live vaccine against bovine brucellosis in the United States and other countries. We previously reported the development of strain RB51 as a bacterial vaccine vector for inducing Th1-type immune responses against heterologous proteins. Because safety concerns may preclude the use of strain RB51-based recombinant live vaccines, we explored the ability of a gamma-irradiated recombinant RB51 strain to induce heterologous antigen-specific immune responses in BALB/c mice. Exposure of strain RB51G/LacZ expressing Escherichia coli β-galactosidase to a minimum of 300 kilorads of gamma radiation resulted in complete loss of replicative ability. These bacteria, however, remained metabolically active and continued to synthesize β-galactosidase. A single intraperitoneal inoculation of mice with 109 CFU equivalents of gamma-irradiated, but not heat-killed, RB51G/LacZ induced a β-galactosidase-specific Th1-type immune response. Though no obvious differences were detected in immune responses to B. abortus-specific antigens, mice vaccinated with gamma-irradiated, but not heat-killed, RB51G/LacZ developed significant protection against challenge with virulent B. abortus. In vitro experiments indicated that gamma-irradiated and heat-killed RB51G/LacZ induced maturation of dendritic cells; however, stimulation with gamma-irradiated bacteria resulted in more interleukin-12 secretion. These results suggest that recombinant RB51 strains exposed to an appropriate minimum dose of gamma radiation are unable to replicate but retain their ability to stimulate Th1 immune responses against the heterologous antigens and confer protection against B. abortus challenge in mice.
PMCID: PMC1317079  PMID: 16339067
15.  Adaptation of the Endogenous Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhi clyA-Encoded Hemolysin for Antigen Export Enhances the Immunogenicity of Anthrax Protective Antigen Domain 4 Expressed by the Attenuated Live-Vector Vaccine Strain CVD 908-htrA  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(12):7096-7106.
Bacterial live-vector vaccines aim to deliver foreign antigens to the immune system and induce protective immune responses, and surface-expressed or secreted antigens are generally more immunogenic than cytoplasmic constructs. We hypothesize that an optimum expression system will use an endogenous export system to avoid the need for large amounts of heterologous DNA encoding additional proteins. Here we describe the cryptic chromosomally encoded 34-kDa cytolysin A hemolysin of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (ClyA) as a novel export system for the expression of heterologous antigens in the supernatant of attenuated Salmonella serovar Typhi live-vector vaccine strains. We constructed a genetic fusion of ClyA to the reporter green fluorescent protein and showed that in Salmonella serovar Typhi CVD 908-htrA, the fusion protein retains biological activity in both domains and is exported into the supernatant of an exponentially growing live vector in the absence of detectable bacterial lysis. The utility of ClyA for enhancing the immunogenicity of an otherwise problematic antigen was demonstrated by engineering ClyA fused to the domain 4 (D4) moiety of Bacillus anthracis protective antigen (PA). A total of 11 of 15 mice immunized intranasally with Salmonella serovar Typhi exporting the protein fusion manifested fourfold or greater rises in serum anti-PA immunoglobulin G, compared with only 1 of 16 mice immunized with the live vector expressing cytoplasmic D4 (P = 0.0002). In addition, the induction of PA-specific gamma interferon and interleukin 5 responses was observed in splenocytes. This technology offers exceptional versatility for enhancing the immunogenicity of bacterial live-vector vaccines.
PMCID: PMC529119  PMID: 15557633
16.  Attenuating gene expression (AGE) for vaccine development 
Virulence  2013;4(5):384-390.
Live attenuated vaccines are adept in stimulating protective immunity. Methods for generating such vaccines have largely adopted strategies used with Salmonella enterica. Yet, when similar strategies were tested in other gram-negative bacteria, the virulence factors or genes responsible to incapacitate Salmonella often failed in providing the desired outcome. Consequently, conventional live vaccines rely on prior knowledge of the pathogen’s virulence factors to successfully attenuate them. This can be problematic since such bacterial pathogens normally harbor thousands of genes. To circumvent this problem, we found that overexpression of bacterial appendages, e.g., fimbriae, capsule, and flagella, could successfully attenuate wild-type (wt) Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Further analysis revealed these attenuated Salmonella strains conferred protection against wt S. Typhimurium challenge as effectively as genetically defined Salmonella vaccines. We refer to this strategy as attenuating gene expression (AGE), a simple efficient approach in attenuating bacterial pathogens, greatly facilitating the construction of live vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3714130  PMID: 23652809
appendages; CFA/I fimbriae; F1 capsule; flagella; Salmonella; vaccine; attenuating gene expression (AGE)
17.  A New Generation of Stable, Nonantibiotic, Low-Copy-Number Plasmids Improves Immune Responses to Foreign Antigens in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhi Live Vectors▿ § 
Infection and Immunity  2009;78(1):337-347.
We hypothesized that adequately engineered attenuated Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi strains can serve as multivalent mucosal live vector vaccines to immunize against unrelated human pathogens. Toward this ultimate goal, we have developed a novel genetic stabilization system for antigen-expressing plasmids, engineered to encode the single-stranded binding protein (SSB), an essential protein involved in DNA metabolism which was deleted from the live vector chromosome. We utilized full-length protective antigen (PA83) of anthrax toxin from Bacillus anthracis as a foreign antigen and expressed PA83 as a fusion with the ClyA export protein, which allows export of ClyA-PA83 to the surface of S. Typhi live vectors. A series of SSB-encoding multicopy expression plasmids were introduced into reengineered S. Typhi strains previously tested in clinical trials, i.e., CVD 908-htrA and its less attenuated parent CVD 908. Immunogenicity was examined using a mouse model of intranasal immunization with live vector, followed by parenteral boosting with purified PA83. PA-specific antibody responses markedly improved as the copy number of the SSB-encoding plasmids decreased, and this effect was dramatically enhanced when the foreign antigen was delivered by the less attenuated live vector CVD 908ssb. These results suggest that antibody responses to antigens delivered by S. Typhi live vectors are inversely related to the metabolic burden imposed by expression of the foreign antigen and that these responses can be improved when antigens are expressed from low-copy-number plasmids and exported out of the cytoplasm of less attenuated live vectors.
PMCID: PMC2798174  PMID: 19884333
18.  A Replicating Cytomegalovirus-Based Vaccine Encoding a Single Ebola Virus Nucleoprotein CTL Epitope Confers Protection against Ebola Virus 
Human outbreaks of Ebola virus (EBOV) are a serious human health concern in Central Africa. Great apes (gorillas/chimpanzees) are an important source of EBOV transmission to humans due to increased hunting of wildlife including the ‘bush-meat’ trade. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an highly immunogenic virus that has shown recent utility as a vaccine platform. CMV-based vaccines also have the unique potential to re-infect and disseminate through target populations regardless of prior CMV immunity, which may be ideal for achieving high vaccine coverage in inaccessible populations such as great apes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We hypothesize that a vaccine strategy using CMV-based vectors expressing EBOV antigens may be ideally suited for use in inaccessible wildlife populations. To establish a ‘proof-of-concept’ for CMV-based vaccines against EBOV, we constructed a mouse CMV (MCMV) vector expressing a CD8+ T cell epitope from the nucleoprotein (NP) of Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) (MCMV/ZEBOV-NPCTL). MCMV/ZEBOV-NPCTL induced high levels of long-lasting (>8 months) CD8+ T cells against ZEBOV NP in mice. Importantly, all vaccinated animals were protected against lethal ZEBOV challenge. Low levels of anti-ZEBOV antibodies were only sporadically detected in vaccinated animals prior to ZEBOV challenge suggesting a role, at least in part, for T cells in protection.
This study demonstrates the ability of a CMV-based vaccine approach to protect against an highly virulent human pathogen, and supports the potential for ‘disseminating’ CMV-based EBOV vaccines to prevent EBOV transmission in wildlife populations.
Author Summary
Human outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease caused by Ebola virus (EBOV) are a serious health concern in Central Africa. Great apes (gorillas/chimpanzees) are an important source of EBOV transmission to humans. Candidate EBOV vaccines do not spread from the initial vaccinee. In addition to being highly immunogenic, vaccines based on the cytomegalovirus (CMV) platform have the unique potential to re-infect and disseminate through target populations. To explore the utility of CMV-based vaccines against EBOV, we constructed a mouse CMV (MCMV) vector expressing a region of nucleoprotein (NP) of Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) (MCMV/ZEBOV-NPCTL). MCMV/ZEBOV-NPCTL induced high levels of long-lasting CD8+ T cells against ZEBOV NP in mice. Importantly, all vaccinated animals were protected against lethal ZEBOV challenge. The absence of ZEBOV neutralizing and only low, sporadic levels of total anti-ZEBOV IgG antibodies in protected animals prior to ZEBOV challenge indicate a role, albeit perhaps not exclusive, for CD8+ T cells in mediating protection. This study demonstrates the ability of a CMV-based vaccine approach to protect against ZEBOV, and provides a ‘proof-of-concept’ for the potential for a ‘disseminating’ CMV-based EBOV vaccine to prevent EBOV transmission in wild animal populations.
PMCID: PMC3153429  PMID: 21858240
19.  Construction of a tetR-Integrated Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhi CVD908 Strain That Tightly Controls Expression of the Major Merozoite Surface Protein of Plasmodium falciparum for Applications in Human Vaccine Production  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(4):2029-2038.
Attenuated Salmonella strains are an attractive live vector for delivery of a foreign antigen to the human immune system. However, the problem with this vector lies with plasmid segregation and the low level of expression of the foreign gene in vivo when constitutive expression is employed, leading to a diminished immune response. We have established inducible expressions of foreign genes in the Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi CVD908 vaccine strain using the tetracycline response regulatory promoter. To set up this system, a tetracycline repressor (tetR) was integrated into a defined ΔaroC locus of the chromosome via suicide plasmid pJG12/tetR-neo. To remove the neo gene conferring kanamycin resistance from the locus, a cre expression vector under the control of the tetracycline response promoter was transformed into the clone; expression of the Cre recombinase excised the neo gene and generated the end strain CVD908-tetR. Expression of the luciferase reporter gene in this strain is dependent on the presence of tetracycline in the medium and can be regulated up to 4,773-fold. Moreover, the tightly controlled expression of major merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) and parts of Plasmodium falciparum was achieved, and the product yield was increased when the inducible expression system was employed. Inoculation of bacteria harboring plasmid pZE11/MSP142 in mice produced the protein in liver and spleen controlled by the inducer. The persistence of the plasmid-carrying bacteria in mice was determined. Peak colonization of both liver and spleen was detected on the third day postinoculation and was followed by a decline in growth curves. After 14 days postinfection, the majority of the bacteria (>90%) recovered from the liver and spleen of the mice retained the plasmid when expression was induced; this clearly indicated that stability of the expression vector in vivo was improved by inducible expression. Establishment of the regulatory system in the vaccine strain may broaden the range of its use by enhancing plasmid stability and expression levels in vivo. Moreover, the availability of the vaccine strain inducibly expressing the entire MSP1 provides possibilities for examining its immunogenicity, particularly the cellular response in animal models.
PMCID: PMC127878  PMID: 11895968
20.  Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi Live Vector Vaccines Finally Come of Age 
Immunology and cell biology  2009;87(5):400-412.
Attenuated bacterial vaccine strains hold great promise as live vectors for presentation of foreign antigens from unrelated bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens to the immune system. While this approach has proven quite successful in experimental animal models for eliciting antigen-specific mucosal, humoral, and cellular responses, results have been disappointing for clinical trials carried out thus far. We hypothesize that the paucity of human responses to foreign antigens delivered by live vectors suggests that the strains and genetic approaches used to date have resulted in over-attenuated vaccine strains with severely reduced immunogenicity. However, remarkable advances have now been made in the genetics of foreign antigen expression, understanding mechanisms of live vector immunity, and refining immunization strategies. The time has now come for development of multivalent live vectors in which stable antigen expression is balanced with metabolic fitness to create highly immunogenic vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3747779  PMID: 19417771
21.  Live attenuated rubella vectors expressing SIV and HIV vaccine antigens replicate and elicit durable immune responses in rhesus macaques 
Retrovirology  2013;10:99.
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.
This paper reports the first successful trial of rubella vectors in rhesus macaques, in combination with DNA vaccines in a prime and boost strategy. The vectors grew robustly in vivo, and the protein inserts were highly immunogenic. Antibody titers elicited by the SIV Gag vector were greater than or equal to those elicited by natural SIV infection. The antibodies were long lasting, and they were boosted by a second dose of replication-competent rubella vectors given six months later, indicating the induction of memory B cells.
Rubella vectors can serve as a vaccine platform for safe delivery and expression of SIV and HIV antigens. By presenting these antigens in the context of an acute infection, at a high level and for a prolonged duration, these vectors can stimulate a strong and persistent immune response, including maturation of memory B cells. Rhesus macaques will provide an ideal animal model for demonstrating immunogenicity of novel vectors and protection against SIV or SHIV challenge.
PMCID: PMC3849444  PMID: 24041113
Live viral vector; Rubella vaccine strain RA27/3; Rhesus macaque; HIV MPER; SIV Gag; Highly immunogenic; Long lasting; Memory B cells
22.  Heterologous expression of Brucella abortus GroEL heat-shock protein in Lactococcus lactis 
Brucella abortus is a facultative intracellular pathogen that mainly infects cattle and humans. Current vaccines rely on live attenuated strains of B. abortus, which can revert to their pathogenic status and thus are not totally safe for use in humans. Therefore, the development of mucosal live vaccines using the food-grade lactic acid bacterium, Lactococcus lactis, as an antigen delivery vector, is an attractive alternative and a safer vaccination strategy against B. abortus. Here, we report the construction of L. lactis strains genetically modified to produce B. abortus GroEL heat-shock protein, a candidate antigen, in two cellular locations, intracellular or secreted.
Only the secreted form of GroEL was stably produced in L. lactis, suggesting a detrimental effect of GroEL protein when intracellularly produced in this bacterium. Only trace amounts of mature GroEL were detected in the supernatant fraction of induced lactococcal cultures, and the GroEL precursor remained stacked in the cell fraction. Attempts to raise the secretion yields were made, but even when GroEL was fused to a synthetic propeptide, secretion of this antigen was not improved.
We found that L. lactis is able to produce, and to secrete, a stable form of GroEL into the extracellular medium. Despite the low secretion efficiency of GroEL, which suggest that this antigen interacts with the cell envelope of L. lactis, secretion seems to be the best way to achieve both production and protein yields, regardless of cellular location. The L. lactis strain secreting GroEL has potential for in vivo immunization.
PMCID: PMC1444932  PMID: 16556312
23.  Improved antibiotic-free DNA vaccine vectors utilizing a novel RNA based plasmid selection system 
Vaccine  2009;27(46):6454-6459.
To ensure safety, regulatory agencies recommend elimination of antibiotic resistance markers from therapeutic and vaccine plasmid DNA vectors. Here, we describe the development and application of a novel antibiotic-free selection system. Vectors incorporate and express a 150 bp RNA-OUT antisense RNA. RNA-OUT represses expression of a chromosomally integrated constitutively expressed counter-selectable marker (sacB), allowing plasmid selection on sucrose. Sucrose selectable DNA vaccine vectors combine antibiotic-free selection with highly productive fermentation manufacturing (>1 gm/L plasmid DNA yields), while improving in vivo expression of encoded proteins and increasing immune responses to target antigens. These vectors are safer, more potent, alternatives for DNA therapy or vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2767433  PMID: 19559109
DNA vaccine; plasmid; antibiotic-free
24.  Non-Human Primate Models for AIDS Vaccine Research 
Since the discovery of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) causing AIDS-like diseases in Asian macaques, non-human primates (NHP) have played an important role in AIDS vaccine research. A multitude of vaccines and immunization approaches have been evaluated, including live attenuated viruses, DNA vaccines, viral and bacterial vectors, subunit proteins, and combinations thereof. Depending on the particular vaccine and model used, varying degrees of protection have been achieved, including prevention of infection, reduction of viral load, and amelioration of disease. In a few instances, potential safety concerns and vaccine-enhanced pathogenicity have also been noted. In the past decade, sophisticated methodologies have been developed to define the mechanisms of protective immunity. However, a clear road map for HIV vaccine development has yet to emerge. This is in part because of the intrinsic nature of the surrogate model and in part because of the improbability of any single model to fully capture the complex interactions of natural HIV infection in humans. The lack of standardization, the limited models available, and the incomplete understanding of the immunobiology of NHP contribute to the difficulty to extrapolate findings from such models to HIV vaccine development. Until efficacy data become available from studies of parallel vaccine concepts in humans and macaques, the predictive value of any NHP model remains unknown. Towards this end, greater appreciation of the utility and limitations of the NHP model and further developments to better mimic HIV infection in humans will likely help inform future AIDS vaccine efforts.
PMCID: PMC1488817  PMID: 15975024
Non-human primates; live attenuated virus; prime-boost; SHIV; HIV; SIV
25.  Use of Lambda Phage S and R Gene Products in an Inducible Lysis System for Vibrio cholerae- and Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium-Based DNA Vaccine Delivery Systems 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(2):986-989.
Novel methods for adapting DNA vaccine technology to the prevention of mucosal diseases are greatly needed. Here we show that regulated expression of phage lambda lysis genes S and R causes dramatic lysis of both Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium cells with concomitant release of plasmid DNA into the surrounding media. We also used single and double DNase mutant strains to show that secreted V. cholerae DNases can adversely affect the integrity of DNA molecules released upon lysis. These results suggest that incorporation of lambda SR-mediated lysis constructs and DNA stabilizing mutations into candidate live attenuated bacterial vaccines offers a promising approach for the development of effective mucosal DNA delivery vectors for humans.
PMCID: PMC97237  PMID: 10639478

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