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J Virol. 1997 Mar; 71(3): 2292–2302.
PMCID: PMC191338

A multivalent minigene vaccine, containing B-cell, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte, and Th epitopes from several microbes, induces appropriate responses in vivo and confers protection against more than one pathogen.


The development of safe and effective vaccines remains a major goal in the prevention, and perhaps treatment, of infectious diseases. Ideally, a single vaccine would confer protection against several pathogens and would induce both cellular and humoral arms of the immune response. We originally demonstrated that two virus-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes, from the same virus but presented by different major histocompatibility complex alleles, when linked in tandem as minigenes in a recombinant vaccinia virus, could confer complete protection against subsequent viral challenge. In the study, we extended this approach, which we termed string of beads, expanding the immunogenic scope in two ways: first, by introduction of T helper (Th) and B-cell (antibody) epitopes alongside CTL epitopes and second, by including immunogenic sequences from a variety of infectious agents, five viruses and one bacterium. The vaccine (VV-sv) comprises CTL epitopes from Sendai virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV); Th epitopes from vesicular stomatitis virus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis; and an antibody epitope from mengovirus. The construct contains a single start codon, and the epitopes are linked directly, without intervening spacer amino acids. There was some concern that the combination of several normally immunodominant epitopes might result in a new hierarchy of dominance, in which certain epitopes predominated and others exhibited reduced immunogenicity. However we show that when analyzed in tissue culture and in vivo, all six epitopes are expressed. CTL and Th cells are induced in vivo, along with neutralizing antibody. The induced immunity is biologically relevant: after VV-sv immunization, the antimengovirus antibody confers protection against mengovirus challenge. Similarly, CTL induced by the LCMV epitope protected mice against challenge with this agent. Thus, a polyvalent, minigene-based vaccine can simultaneously induce several classes of immune response and thereby can confer protection against diverse pathogens.

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