We hypothesize that over-expression of transporters associated with antigen processing (TAP1 and TAP2), components of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen-processing pathway, enhances antigen-specific cytotoxic activity in response to viral infection. An expression system using recombinant vaccinia virus (VV) was used to over-express human TAP1 and TAP2 (VV-hTAP1,2) in normal mice. Mice coinfected with either vesicular stomatitis virus plus VV-hTAP1,2 or Sendai virus plus VV-hTAP1,2 increased cytotoxic lymphocyte (CTL) activity by at least 4-fold when compared to coinfections with a control vector, VV encoding the plasmid PJS-5. Coinfections with VV-hTAP1,2 increased virus-specific CTL precursors compared to control infections without VV-hTAP1,2. In an animal model of lethal viral challenge after vaccination, VV-hTAP1,2 provided protection against a lethal challenge of VV at doses 100-fold lower than control vector alone. Mechanistically, the total MHC class I antigen surface expression and the cross-presentation mechanism in spleen-derived dendritic cells was augmented by over-expression of TAP. Furthermore, VV-hTAP1,2 increases splenic TAP transport activity and endogenous antigen processing, thus rendering infected targets more susceptible to CTL recognition and subsequent killing. This is the first demonstration that over-expression of a component of the antigen-processing machinery increases endogenous antigen presentation and dendritic cell cross-presentation of exogenous antigens and may provide a novel and general approach for increasing immune responses against pathogens at low doses of vaccine inocula.
The development of protective vaccines against infectious diseases such as AIDS, SARS, and West Nile virus has become a societal priority but remains a scientific challenge. In recent years, the threat of bioterrorism agents such as anthrax and smallpox has heightened the need for the rapid development of effective new vaccines. One of the major stumbling blocks to the implementation of any vaccine is the toxic side effects on the vaccine candidate. For example, a significant number of doses of a new vaccine against smallpox have been commissioned, but approximately 20% of the individuals targeted to be inoculated will suffer toxicity due to vaccination. Furthermore, an additional difficulty in the production of vaccines is the creation of sufficient doses to vaccinate a large population. The authors have identified a novel approach that appears to address these issues. They demonstrate that the inclusion, in low doses of vaccines, of a normal component of the antigen-processing pathway, the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP), confers protective immunity against lethal viral loads during viral challenges. This new paradigm is shown to be applicable to many viruses, including poxviruses, and could significantly advance the creation of new vaccines and improve those that already exist.