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1.  Breadth of cellular and humoral immune responses elicited in rhesus monkeys by multi-valent mosaic and consensus immunogens 
Virology  2012;428(2):121-127.
To create an HIV-1 vaccine that generates sufficient breadth of immune recognition to protect against the genetically diverse forms of the circulating virus, we have been exploring vaccines based on consensus and mosaic protein designs. Increasing the valency of a mosaic immunogen cocktail increases epitope coverage but with diminishing returns, as increasingly rare epitopes are incorporated into the mosaic proteins. In this study we compared the immunogenicity of 2-valent and 3-valent HIV-1 envelope mosaic immunogens in rhesus monkeys. Immunizations with the 3-valent mosaic immunogens resulted in a modest increase in the breadth of vaccine-elicited T lymphocyte responses compared to the 2-valent mosaic immunogens. However, the 3-valent mosaic immunogens elicited significantly higher neutralizing responses to Tier 1 viruses than the 2-valent mosaic immunogens. These findings underscore the potential utility of polyvalent mosaic immunogens for eliciting both cellular and humoral immune responses to HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3582221  PMID: 22521913
HIV-1 vaccine; Mosaic immunogen; T cell
2.  Mosaic HIV-1 Vaccines Expand the Breadth and Depth of Cellular Immune Responses in Rhesus Monkeys 
Nature medicine  2010;16(3):319-323.
The worldwide diversity of HIV-1 presents an unprecedented challenge for vaccine development 1-2. Antigens derived from natural HIV-1 sequences have elicited only limited breadth of cellular immune responses in nonhuman primate studies and clinical trials to date. Polyvalent “mosaic” antigens, in contrast, are designed to optimize cellular immunologic coverage of global HIV-1 sequence diversity 3. Here we show that mosaic HIV-1 Gag, Pol, and Env antigens expressed by recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus serotype 26 vectors markedly augmented both the breadth and depth without compromising the magnitude of antigen-specific T lymphocyte responses as compared with consensus or natural sequence HIV-1 antigens in rhesus monkeys. Polyvalent mosaic antigens therefore represent a promising strategy to expand cellular immunologic vaccine coverage for genetically diverse pathogens such as HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC2834868  PMID: 20173752
3.  Prospects for immunisation against Marburg and Ebola viruses 
Reviews in Medical Virology  2010;20(6):344-357.
For more than 30 years the filoviruses, Marburg virus and Ebola virus, have been associated with periodic outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever that produce severe and often fatal disease. The filoviruses are endemic primarily in resource-poor regions in Central Africa and are also potential agents of bioterrorism. Although no vaccines or antiviral drugs for Marburg or Ebola are currently available, remarkable progress has been made over the last decade in developing candidate preventive vaccines against filoviruses in nonhuman primate models. Due to the generally remote locations of filovirus outbreaks, a single-injection vaccine is desirable. Among the prospective vaccines that have shown efficacy in nonhuman primate models of filoviral hemorrhagic fever, two candidates, one based on a replication-defective adenovirus serotype 5 and the other on a recombinant VSV (rVSV), were shown to provide complete protection to nonhuman primates when administered as a single injection. The rVSV-based vaccine has also shown utility when administered for postexposure prophylaxis against filovirus infections. A VSV-based Ebola vaccine was recently used to manage a potential laboratory exposure.
PMCID: PMC3394174  PMID: 20658513
4.  Expanded Breadth of the T-Cell Response to Mosaic Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Envelope DNA Vaccination▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2008;83(5):2201-2215.
An effective AIDS vaccine must control highly diverse circulating strains of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Among HIV-1 gene products, the envelope (Env) protein contains variable as well as conserved regions. In this report, an informatic approach to the design of T-cell vaccines directed to HIV-1 Env M group global sequences was tested. Synthetic Env antigens were designed to express mosaics that maximize the inclusion of common potential T-cell epitope (PTE) 9-mers and minimize the inclusion of rare epitopes likely to elicit strain-specific responses. DNA vaccines were evaluated using intracellular cytokine staining in inbred mice with a standardized panel of highly conserved 15-mer PTE peptides. One-, two-, and three-mosaic sets that increased theoretical epitope coverage were developed. The breadth and magnitude of T-cell immunity stimulated by these vaccines were compared to those for natural strain Envs; additional comparisons were performed on mutant Envs, including gp160 or gp145 with or without V regions and gp41 deletions. Among them, the two- or three-mosaic Env sets elicited the optimal CD4 and CD8 responses. These responses were most evident in CD8 T cells; the three-mosaic set elicited responses to an average of eight peptide pools, compared to two pools for a set of three natural Envs. Synthetic mosaic HIV-1 antigens can therefore induce T-cell responses with expanded breadth and may facilitate the development of effective T-cell-based HIV-1 vaccines.
PMCID: PMC2643734  PMID: 19109395
5.  Defining epitope coverage requirements for T cell-based HIV vaccines: Theoretical considerations and practical applications 
HIV vaccine development must address the genetic diversity and plasticity of the virus that permits the presentation of diverse genetic forms to the immune system and subsequent escape from immune pressure. Assessment of potential HIV strain coverage by candidate T cell-based vaccines (whether natural sequence or computationally optimized products) is now a critical component in interpreting candidate vaccine suitability.
We have utilized an N-mer identity algorithm to represent T cell epitopes and explore potential coverage of the global HIV pandemic using natural sequences derived from candidate HIV vaccines. Breadth (the number of T cell epitopes generated) and depth (the variant coverage within a T cell epitope) analyses have been incorporated into the model to explore vaccine coverage requirements in terms of the number of discrete T cell epitopes generated.
We show that when multiple epitope generation by a vaccine product is considered a far more nuanced appraisal of the potential HIV strain coverage of the vaccine product emerges. By considering epitope breadth and depth several important observations were made: (1) epitope breadth requirements to reach particular levels of vaccine coverage, even for natural sequence-based vaccine products is not necessarily an intractable problem for the immune system; (2) increasing the valency (number of T cell epitope variants present) of vaccine products dramatically decreases the epitope requirements to reach particular coverage levels for any epidemic; (3) considering multiple-hit models (more than one exact epitope match with an incoming HIV strain) places a significantly higher requirement upon epitope breadth in order to reach a given level of coverage, to the point where low valency natural sequence based products would not practically be able to generate sufficient epitopes.
When HIV vaccine sequences are compared against datasets of potential incoming viruses important metrics such as the minimum epitope count required to reach a desired level of coverage can be easily calculated. We propose that such analyses can be applied early in the planning stages and during the execution phase of a vaccine trial to explore theoretical and empirical suitability of a vaccine product to a particular epidemic setting.
PMCID: PMC3284408  PMID: 22152192
6.  Mosaic Vaccines Elicit CD8+ T lymphocyte Responses in Monkeys that Confer Enhanced Immune Coverage of Diverse HIV Strains 
Nature medicine  2010;16(3):324-328.
An effective HIV vaccine must elicit immune responses that recognize genetically diverse viruses1, 2. It must generate CD8+ T lymphocytes that control HIV replication and CD4+ T lymphocytes that provide help for the generation and maintenance of both cellular and humoral immune responses against the virus3–5. Creating immunogens that can elicit cellular immune responses against the genetically varied circulating isolates of HIV presents an important challenge for creating an AIDS vaccine6, 7. Polyvalent mosaic immunogens derived by in silico recombination of natural strains of HIV are designed to induce cellular immune responses that recognize genetically diverse circulating virus isolates8. In the present study we immunized rhesus monkeys by plasmid DNA prime/ recombinant vaccinia virus boost using vaccine constructs expressing either consensus or polyvalent mosaic proteins. The mosaic immunogens elicited CD8+ T lymphocyte responses to more epitopes of each viral protein than the consensus immunogens, and to more variant sequences of CD8+ T lymphocyte epitopes. This increased breadth and depth of epitope recognition may contribute both to protection against infection by genetically diverse viruses and to the control of variant viruses that emerge as they mutate away from recognition by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.
PMCID: PMC2834806  PMID: 20173754
7.  Elicitation from virus-naive individuals of cytotoxic T lymphocytes directed against conserved HIV-1 epitopes 
Medical Immunology  2006;5:1.
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) protect against viruses including HIV-1. To avoid viral escape mutants that thwart immunity, we chose 25 CTL epitopes defined in the context of natural infection with functional and/or structural constraints that maintain sequence conservation. By combining HLA binding predictions with knowledge concerning HLA allele frequencies, a metric estimating population protection coverage (PPC) was computed and epitope pools assembled. Strikingly, only a minority of immunocompetent HIV-1 infected individuals responds to pools with PPC >95%. In contrast, virus-naive individuals uniformly expand IFNγ producing cells and mount anti-HIV-1 cytolytic activity. This disparity suggests a vaccine design paradigm shift from infected to normal subjects.
PMCID: PMC1559620  PMID: 16674822
8.  Protective Role of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes in Filovirus Hemorrhagic Fever 
Infection with many emerging viruses, such as the hemorrhagic fever disease caused by the filoviruses, Marburg (MARV), and Ebola virus (EBOV), leaves the host with a short timeframe in which to mouse a protective immune response. In lethal cases, uncontrolled viral replication and virus-induced immune dysregulation are too severe to overcome, and mortality is generally associated with a lack of notable immune responses. Vaccination studies in animals have demonstrated an association of IgG and neutralizing antibody responses against the protective glycoprotein antigen with survival from lethal challenge. More recently, studies in animal models of filovirus hemorrhagic fever have established that induction of a strong filovirus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response can facilitate complete viral clearance. In this review, we describe assays used to discover CTL responses after vaccination or live filovirus infection in both animal models and human clinical trials. Unfortunately, little data regarding CTL responses have been collected from infected human survivors, primarily due to the low frequency of disease and the inability to perform these studies in the field. Advancements in assays and technologies may allow these studies to occur during future outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC3255346  PMID: 22253531
9.  Mosaic HIV-1 Gag antigens can be Processed and Presented to human HIV-specific CD8+ T cells 
Polyvalent “mosaic” HIV immunogens offer a potential solution for generating vaccines that can elicit immune responses against genetically diverse viruses. However, it is unclear whether key T cell epitopes can be processed and presented from these synthetic antigens and recognized by epitope-specific human T cells. Here we tested the ability of mosaic HIV immunogens expressed by recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus serotype 26 vectors to process and present major HIV clade B and clade C CD8 T cell epitopes in human cells. A bivalent mosaic vaccine expressing HIV Gag sequences was used to transduce PBMC from 12 HIV-1-infected individuals from the US and 10 HIV-1-infected individuals from South Africa, and intracellular cytokine staining together with tetramer staining was used to assess the ability of mosaic Gag antigens to stimulate pre-existing memory responses compared to natural clade B and C vectors. Mosaic Gag antigens expressed all 8 clade B epitopes tested in 12 US subjects and all 5 clade C epitopes tested in 10 South African subjects. Overall, the magnitude of cytokine production induced by stimulation with mosaic antigens was comparable to clade B and clade C antigens tested, but the mosaic antigens elicited greater cross-clade recognition. Additionally, mosaic antigens also induced HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses. Our studies demonstrate that mosaic antigens express major clade B and clade C viral T cell epitopes in human cells, and support the evaluation of mosaic HIV-1 vaccines in humans.
PMCID: PMC3129742  PMID: 21576505
10.  Immunogenicity of a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Polytope Vaccine Containing Multiple HLA A2 HIV CD8+ Cytotoxic T-Cell Epitopes 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(7):5320-5325.
Compelling evidence now suggests that αβ CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) have an important role in preventing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and/or slowing progression to AIDS. Here, we describe an HIV type 1 CTL polyepitope, or polytope, vaccine comprising seven contiguous minimal HLA A2-restricted CD8 CTL epitopes conjoined in a single artificial construct. Epitope-specific CTL lines derived from HIV-infected individuals were able to recognize every epitope within the construct, and HLA A2-transgenic mice immunized with a recombinant virus vaccine coding for the HIV polytope also generated CTL specific for different epitopes. Each epitope in the polytope construct was therefore processed and presented, illustrating the feasibility of the polytope approach for HIV vaccine design. By simultaneously inducing CTL specific for different epitopes, an HIV polytope vaccine might generate activity against multiple challenge isolates and/or preempt the formation of CTL escape mutants.
PMCID: PMC112587  PMID: 10364278
11.  Frequent associations between CTL and T-Helper epitopes in HIV-1 genomes and implications for multi-epitope vaccine designs 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:212.
Epitope vaccines have been suggested as a strategy to counteract viral escape and development of drug resistance. Multiple studies have shown that Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte (CTL) and T-Helper (Th) epitopes can generate strong immune responses in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1). However, not much is known about the relationship among different types of HIV epitopes, particularly those epitopes that can be considered potential candidates for inclusion in the multi-epitope vaccines.
In this study we used association rule mining to examine relationship between different types of epitopes (CTL, Th and antibody epitopes) from nine protein-coding HIV-1 genes to identify strong associations as potent multi-epitope vaccine candidates. Our results revealed 137 association rules that were consistently present in the majority of reference and non-reference HIV-1 genomes and included epitopes of two different types (CTL and Th) from three different genes (Gag, Pol and Nef). These rules involved 14 non-overlapping epitope regions that frequently co-occurred despite high mutation and recombination rates, including in genomes of circulating recombinant forms. These epitope regions were also highly conserved at both the amino acid and nucleotide levels indicating strong purifying selection driven by functional and/or structural constraints and hence, the diminished likelihood of successful escape mutations.
Our results provide a comprehensive systematic survey of CTL, Th and Ab epitopes that are both highly conserved and co-occur together among all subtypes of HIV-1, including circulating recombinant forms. Several co-occurring epitope combinations were identified as potent candidates for inclusion in multi-epitope vaccines, including epitopes that are immuno-responsive to different arms of the host immune machinery and can enable stronger and more efficient immune responses, similar to responses achieved with adjuvant therapies. Signature of strong purifying selection acting at the nucleotide level of the associated epitopes indicates that these regions are functionally critical, although the exact reasons behind such sequence conservation remain to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC2924856  PMID: 20696039
12.  Design and preclinical development of a recombinant protein and DNA plasmid mixed format vaccine to deliver HIV-derived T-lymphocyte epitopes 
Vaccine  2009;27(50):7087-7095.
Coordinated interactions between helper and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (HTL and CTL) are needed for optimal effector cell functions and the establishment of immunological memory. We, therefore, designed a mixed format vaccine based on the use of highly-conserved HIV-derived T-lymphocyte epitopes wherein the HTL epitopes were delivered as a recombinant protein and the CTL epitopes which were encoded in a DNA vaccine plasmid. Immunogenicity testing in HLA transgenic mice and GLP preclinical safety testing in rabbits and guinea pigs were used to document the utility of this approach and to support Phase 1 trial clinical testing. Both vaccine components were immunogenic and safely co-administered.
PMCID: PMC2783266  PMID: 19786132
13.  High-affinity T helper epitope induces complementary helper and APC polarization, increased CTL, and protection against viral infection 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2001;108(11):1677-1685.
Natural viral proteins do not always make optimal vaccines. We have found that sequence modification to increase epitope affinity for class II MHC molecules (epitope enhancement) can improve immunogenicity. Here we show first that a higher-affinity helper epitope-enhanced HIV vaccine not only induces more cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), but also skews helper cells toward Th1 cytokine production and protects against HIV-1 recombinant vaccinia viral challenge. Furthermore, we elucidate a novel mechanism in which the higher-affinity vaccine induces dramatically more effective helper cells with a higher level of CD40L per helper cell and more positive cells, which in turn more effectively conditions dendritic cells (DCs) for CTL activation in a second culture. The improved helper cells also induce much greater IL-12 production by DCs, accounting for the reciprocal T helper polarization to Th1, and increase costimulatory molecule expression. Thus, increasing affinity for class II MHC results in a complementary interaction in which T helper and antigen-presenting cells polarize each other, as well as increase CTL, and provide greater vaccine efficacy against viral infection.
PMCID: PMC200990  PMID: 11733563
14.  Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus–Based Vaccines Against Ebola and Marburg Virus Infections 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;204(Suppl 3):S1075-S1081.
The filoviruses, Marburg virus and Ebola virus, cause severe hemorrhagic fever with a high mortality rate in humans and nonhuman primates. Among the most-promising filovirus vaccines under development is a system based on recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) that expresses a single filovirus glycoprotein (GP) in place of the VSV glycoprotein (G). Importantly, a single injection of blended rVSV-based filovirus vaccines was shown to completely protect nonhuman primates against Marburg virus and 3 different species of Ebola virus. These rVSV-based vaccines have also shown utility when administered as a postexposure treatment against filovirus infections, and a rVSV-based Ebola virus vaccine was recently used to treat a potential laboratory exposure. Here, we review the history of rVSV-based vaccines and pivotal animal studies showing their utility in combating Ebola and Marburg virus infections.
PMCID: PMC3218670  PMID: 21987744
15.  Magnitude and Diversity of Cytotoxic-T-Lymphocyte Responses Elicited by Multiepitope DNA Vaccination in Rhesus Monkeys 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(18):10113-10118.
In an effort to develop an AIDS vaccine that elicits high-frequency cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses with specificity for a diversity of viral epitopes, we explored two prototype multiepitope plasmid DNA vaccines in the simian-human immunodeficiency virus/rhesus monkey model to determine their efficiency in priming for such immune responses. While a simple multiepitope vaccine construct demonstrated limited immunogenicity in monkeys, this same multiepitope genetic sequence inserted into an immunogenic simian immunodeficiency virus gag DNA vaccine elicited high-frequency CTL responses specific for all of the epitopes included in the vaccine. Both multiepitope vaccine prototypes primed for robust epitope-specific CTL responses that developed following boosting with recombinant modified vaccinia virus Ankara vaccines expressing complete viral proteins. The natural hierarchy of immunodominance for these epitopes was clearly evident in the boosted monkeys. These studies suggest that multiepitope plasmid DNA vaccine-based prime-boost regimens can efficiently prime for CTL responses of increased breadth and magnitude, although they do not overcome predicted hierarchies of immunodominance.
PMCID: PMC224609  PMID: 12941922
16.  Induction of a Mucosal Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Response by Intrarectal Immunization with a Replication-Deficient Recombinant Vaccinia Virus Expressing Human Immunodeficiency Virus 89.6 Envelope Protein 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(10):8264-8272.
To improve the safety of recombinant vaccinia virus vaccines, modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) has been employed, because it has a replication defect in most mammalian cells. Here we apply MVA to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine development by incorporating the envelope protein gp160 of HIV-1 primary isolate strain 89.6 (MVA 89.6) and use it to induce mucosal cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte (CTL) immunity. In initial studies to define a dominant CTL epitope for HIV-1 89.6 gp160, we mapped the epitope to a sequence, IGPGRAFYAR (from the V3 loop), homologous to that recognized by HIV MN loop-specific CTL and showed that HIV-1 MN-specific CTLs cross-reactively recognize the corresponding epitope from strain 89.6 presented by H-2Dd. Having defined the CTL specificity, we immunized BALB/c mice intrarectally with recombinant MVA 89.6. A single mucosal immunization with MVA 89.6 was able to elicit long-lasting antigen-specific mucosal (Peyer’s patch and lamina propria) and systemic (spleen) CTL responses as effective as or more effective than those of a replication-competent vaccinia virus expressing 89.6 gp160. Immunization with MVA 89.6 led to (i) the loading of antigen-presenting cells in vivo, as measured by the ex vivo active presentation of the P18-89.6 peptide to an antigen-specific CTL line, and (ii) the significant production of the proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha) in the mucosal sites. These results indicate that nonreplicating recombinant MVA may be at least as effective for mucosal immunization as replicating recombinant vaccinia virus.
PMCID: PMC110185  PMID: 9733870
17.  Identification of Novel HLA-A2-Restricted Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1-Specific Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitopes Predicted by the HLA-A2 Supertype Peptide-Binding Motif 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(3):1301-1311.
Virus-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses are critical in the control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection and will play an important part in therapeutic and prophylactic HIV-1 vaccines. The identification of virus-specific epitopes that are efficiently recognized by CTL is the first step in the development of future vaccines. Here we describe the immunological characterization of a number of novel HIV-1-specific, HLA-A2-restricted CTL epitopes that share a high degree of conservation within HIV-1 and a strong binding to different alleles of the HLA-A2 superfamily. These novel epitopes include the first reported CTL epitope in the Vpr protein. Two of the novel epitopes were immunodominant among the HLA-A2-restricted CTL responses of individuals with acute and chronic HIV-1 infection. The novel CTL epitopes identified here should be included in future vaccines designed to induce HIV-1-specific CTL responses restricted by the HLA-A2 superfamily and will be important to assess in immunogenicity studies in infected persons and in uninfected recipients of candidate HIV-1 vaccines.
PMCID: PMC114036  PMID: 11152503
18.  The Antiviral Efficacy of HIV-Specific CD8+ T-Cells to a Conserved Epitope Is Heavily Dependent on the Infecting HIV-1 Isolate 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1001341.
A major challenge to developing a successful HIV vaccine is the vast diversity of viral sequences, yet it is generally assumed that an epitope conserved between different strains will be recognised by responding T-cells. We examined whether an invariant HLA-B8 restricted Nef90–97 epitope FL8 shared between five high titre viruses and eight recombinant vaccinia viruses expressing Nef from different viral isolates (clades A–H) could activate antiviral activity in FL8-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL). Surprisingly, despite epitope conservation, we found that CTL antiviral efficacy is dependent on the infecting viral isolate. Only 23% of Nef proteins, expressed by HIV-1 isolates or as recombinant vaccinia-Nef, were optimally recognised by CTL. Recognition of the HIV-1 isolates by CTL was independent of clade-grouping but correlated with virus-specific polymorphisms in the epitope flanking region, which altered immunoproteasomal cleavage resulting in enhanced or impaired epitope generation. The finding that the majority of virus isolates failed to present this conserved epitope highlights the importance of viral variance in CTL epitope flanking regions on the efficiency of antigen processing, which has been considerably underestimated previously. This has important implications for future vaccine design strategies since efficient presentation of conserved viral epitopes is necessary to promote enhanced anti-viral immune responses.
Author Summary
One of the greatest challenges to developing an effective HIV vaccine is the ability of HIV to rapidly alter its viral sequence. Such variation in viral sequence enables the virus to frequently evade recognition by the host immune system. To counteract this problem, there has been increasing interest in developing HIV vaccines that target T-cell responses to the regions of the virus that are highly conserved between strains of HIV. However, previous studies have focused on identifying amino acid variation predominantly within a single viral isolate, or have focused on classical within-epitope escape mutation. Our study assessed T-cell recognition of a conserved epitope shared by a total of 13 HIV strains. Strikingly, we show that only a small proportion of the viral strains were effectively recognised and targeted by the T-cells. In contrast, differences in amino acid sequence in the region flanking the epitope impaired the intracellular processing and presentation of epitope in the majority of HIV strains tested. Thus, our findings highlight that a large proportion of HIV strains may evade epitope-specific T-cell recognition despite absolute epitope conservation. This has important implications for both vaccine design and evaluation of vaccine efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3093356  PMID: 21589893
19.  Using Multivalent Adenoviral Vectors for HIV Vaccination 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60347.
Adenoviral vectors have been used for a variety of vaccine applications including cancer and infectious diseases. Traditionally, Ad-based vaccines are designed to express antigens through transgene expression of a given antigen. For effective vaccine development it is often necessary to express or present multiple antigens to the immune system to elicit an optimal vaccine as observed preclinically with mosaic/polyvalent HIV vaccines or malaria vaccines. Due to the wide flexibility of Ad vectors they are an ideal platform for expressing large amounts of antigen and/or polyvalent mosaic antigens. Ad vectors that display antigens on their capsid surface can elicit a robust humoral immune response, the “antigen capsid-incorporation” strategy. The adenoviral hexon protein has been utilized to display peptides in the majority of vaccine strategies involving capsid incorporation. Based on our abilities to manipulate hexon HVR2 and HVR5, we sought to manipulate HVR1 in the context of HIV antigen display for the first time ever. More importantly, peptide incorporation within HVR1 was utilized in combination with other HVRs, thus creating multivalent vectors. To date this is the first report where dual antigens are displayed within one Ad hexon particle. These vectors utilize HVR1 as an incorporation site for a seven amino acid region of the HIV glycoprotein 41, in combination with six Histidine incorporation within HVR2 or HVR5. Our study illustrates that these multivalent antigen vectors are viable and can present HIV antigen as well as His6 within one Ad virion particle. Furthermore, mouse immunizations with these vectors demonstrate that these vectors can elicit a HIV and His6 epitope-specific humoral immune response.
PMCID: PMC3610663  PMID: 23555957
20.  Standardization of the Filovirus Plaque Assay for Use in Preclinical Studies 
Viruses  2012;4(12):3511-3530.
The filovirus plaque assay serves as the assay of choice to measure infectious virus in a cell culture, blood, or homogenized tissue sample. It has been in use for more than 30 years and is the generally accepted assay used to titrate virus in samples from animals treated with a potential antiviral therapeutic or vaccine. As these animal studies are required for the development of vaccines and therapeutics under the FDA Animal Rule, it is essential to have a standardized assay to compare their efficacies against the various filoviruses. Here, we present an evaluation of the conditions under which the filovirus plaque assay performs best for the Ebola virus Kikwit variant and the Angola variant of Marburg virus. The indicator cell type and source, inoculum volumes, length of incubation and general features of filovirus biology as visualized in the assay are addressed in terms of the impact on the sample viral titer calculations. These optimization studies have resulted in a plaque assay protocol which can be used for preclinical studies, and as a standardized protocol for use across institutions, to aid in data comparison. This protocol will be validated for use in GLP studies supporting advanced development of filovirus therapeutics and vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3528277  PMID: 23223188
plaque assay; filovirus; Ebola; ebolavirus; marburgvirus; Marburg virus; Vero
21.  Localization of Epstein-Barr virus cytotoxic T cell epitopes using recombinant vaccinia: implications for vaccine development 
There is considerable interest in designing an effective vaccine to the ubiquitous Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). An important role for EBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in eliminating virus-infected cells is well established. Limited studies using a small number of immune donors have defined target epitopes within the latent antigens of EBV. The present study provides an extensive analysis of the distribution of class I-restricted CTL epitopes within EBV-encoded proteins. Using recombinant vaccinia encoding individual EBV latent antigens (Epstein- Barr nuclear antigen [EBNA] 1, 2, 3A, 3B, 3C, LP, and LMP 1), we have successfully localized target epitopes recognized by CTL clones from a panel of 14 EBV-immune donors. Of the 20 CTL epitopes localized, five were defined at the peptide level. Although CTL clones specific for nine epitopes recognized both type 1 and type 2 transformants, a significant number of epitopes (7/16 epitopes for which EBV type specificity was determined) were detected only on type 1 EBV transformants. Vaccinia recombinants encoding EBNA 3A and EBNA 3C were recognized more frequently than any other vaccinia recombinants used in this study, while no CTL epitopes were localized in EBNA 1. Surprisingly, epitope specificity for a large number of EBV-specific CTL clones could not be localized, although vaccinia recombinants used in this study encoded most of the latent antigens of EBV. These results suggest that any EBV vaccine based on CTL epitopes designed to provide widespread protection will need to include not only latent antigen sequences but also other regions of the genome. The apparent inability of human CTLs to recognize EBNA 1 as a target antigen, often the only latent antigen expressed in Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, suggests that EBV-specific CTL control of these tumors will not be feasible unless the down-regulation of latent antigens can be reversed.
PMCID: PMC2119270  PMID: 1377222
22.  Vesicular stomatitis virus-based vaccines protect nonhuman primates against aerosol challenge with Ebola and Marburg viruses 
Vaccine  2008;26(52):6894-6900.
Considerable progress has been made over the last decade in developing candidate preventive vaccines that can protect nonhuman primates against Ebola and Marburg viruses. A vaccine based on recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) seems to be particularly robust as it can also confer protection when administered as a postexposure treatment. While filoviruses are not thought to be transmitted by aerosol in nature the inhalation route is among the most likely portals of entry in the setting of a bioterrorist event. At present, all candidate filoviral vaccines have been evaluated against parenteral challenges but none have been tested against an aerosol exposure. Here, we evaluated our recombinant VSV-based Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV) and Marburg virus (MARV) vaccines against aerosol challenge in cynomolgus macaques. All monkeys vaccinated with a VSV vector expressing the glycoprotein of ZEBOV were completely protected against an aerosol exposure of ZEBOV. Likewise, all monkeys vaccinated with a VSV vector expressing the glycoprotein of MARV were completely protected against an aerosol exposure of MARV. All control animals challenged by the aerosol route with either ZEBOV or MARV succumbed. Interestingly, disease in control animals appeared to progress slower than previously seen in macaques exposed to comparable doses by intramuscular injection.
PMCID: PMC3398796  PMID: 18930776
Ebola virus; Marburg virus; Filovirus; Nonhuman primates; Aerosol; Vaccines
23.  Elicitation of High-Frequency Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Responses against both Dominant and Subdominant Simian-Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epitopes by DNA Vaccination of Rhesus Monkeys 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(5):2462-2467.
Increasing evidence suggests that the generation of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses specific for a diversity of viral epitopes will be needed for an effective human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine. Here, we determine the frequencies of CTL responses specific for the simian immunodeficiency virus Gag p11C and HIV-1 Env p41A epitopes in simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV)-infected and vaccinated rhesus monkeys. The p11C-specific CTL response was high frequency and dominant and the p41A-specific CTL response was low frequency and subdominant in both SHIV-infected monkeys and in monkeys vaccinated with recombinant modified vaccinia virus Ankara vectors expressing these viral antigens. Interestingly, we found that plasmid DNA vaccination led to high-frequency CTL responses specific for both of these epitopes. These data demonstrate that plasmid DNA may be useful in eliciting a broad CTL response against multiple epitopes.
PMCID: PMC114830  PMID: 11160750
24.  Novel Plant Virus-Based Vaccine Induces Protective Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte-Mediated Antiviral Immunity through Dendritic Cell Maturation▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;82(2):785-794.
Currently used vaccines protect mainly through the production of neutralizing antibodies. However, antibodies confer little or no protection for a majority of chronic viral infections that require active involvement of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Virus-like particles (VLPs) have been shown to be efficient inducers of cell-mediated immune responses, but administration of an adjuvant is generally required. We recently reported the generation of a novel VLP system exploiting the self-assembly property of the papaya mosaic virus (PapMV) coat protein. We show here that uptake of PapMV-like particles by murine splenic dendritic cells (DCs) in vivo leads to their maturation, suggesting that they possess intrinsic adjuvant-like properties. DCs pulsed with PapMV-like particles displaying the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) p33 immunodominant CTL epitope (PapMV-p33) efficiently process and cross-present the viral epitope to p33-specific transgenic T cells. Importantly, the CTL epitope is also properly processed and presented in vivo, since immunization of p33-specific T-cell receptor transgenic mice with PapMV-p33 induces the activation of large numbers of specific CTLs. C57BL/6 mice immunized with PapMV-p33 VLPs in the absence of adjuvant develop p33-specific effector CTLs that rapidly expand following LCMV challenge and protect vaccinated mice against LCMV infection in a dose-dependent manner. These results demonstrate the efficiency of this novel plant virus-based vaccination platform in inducing DC maturation leading to protective CTL responses.
PMCID: PMC2224570  PMID: 17989184
25.  The role of antigen-presenting cells in filoviral hemorrhagic fever: gaps in current knowledge 
Antiviral Research  2012;93(3):416-428.
The filoviruses, ebolavirus (EBOV) and marburgvirus (MARV), are highly lethal zoonotic agents of concern as emerging pathogens and potential bioweapons. Antigen-presenting cells (APCs), particularly macrophages and dendritic cells, are targets of filovirus infection in vivo. Infection of these cell types has been proposed to contribute to the inflammation, activation of coagulation cascades and ineffective immune responses characteristic of filovirus hemorrhagic fever. However, many aspects of filovirus-APC interactions remain to be clarified. Among the unanswered questions: What determines the ability of filoviruses to replicate in different APC subsets? What are the cellular signaling pathways that sense infection and lead to production of copious quantities of cytokines, chemokines and tissue factor? What are the mechanisms by which innate antiviral responses are disabled by these viruses, and how may these mechanisms contribute to inadequate adaptive immunity? A better understanding of these issues will clarify the pathogenesis of filoviral hemorrhagic fever and provide new avenues for development of therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3299938  PMID: 22333482

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