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J Immunol. 2007 Dec 15;179(12):8313-21.

Prolonged antigen expression following DNA vaccination impairs effector CD8+ T cell function and memory development.

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  • 1Cancer Sciences Division, University of Southampton School of Medicine, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, United Kingdom.


After priming, naive T cells undergo a program of expansion, contraction, and memory formation. Numerous studies have indicated that only a brief period of antigenic stimulation is required to fully commit CD8+ T cells to this program. Nonetheless, the persistence of Ag may modulate the eventual fate of CD8+ T cells. Using DNA delivery, we showed previously that direct presentation primes high levels of effector CD8+ T cells as compared with cross-presentation. One explanation now revealed is that prolonged cross-presentation limits effector cell expansion and function. To analyze this, we used a drug-responsive system to regulate Ag expression after DNA injection. Reducing expression to a single burst expanded greater numbers of peptide-specific effector CD8+ T cells than sustained Ag. Consequences for memory development were assessed after boosting and showed that, although persistent Ag maintained higher numbers of tetramer-positive CD8+ T cells, these expanded less (approximately 4-fold) than those induced by transient Ag expression (approximately 35-fold). Transient expression at priming therefore led to a net higher secondary response. In terms of vaccine design, we propose that the most effective DNA-based CD8+ T cell vaccines will be those that deliver a short burst of Ag.

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