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Virol J. 2011 Feb 7;8:51. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-8-51.

The porcine circovirus type 1 capsid gene promoter improves antigen expression and immunogenicity in a HIV-1 plasmid vaccine.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Cape Town, 7701 South Africa.



One of the promising avenues for development of vaccines against Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and other human pathogens is the use of plasmid-based DNA vaccines. However, relatively large doses of plasmid must be injected for a relatively weak response. We investigated whether genome elements from Porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV-1), an apathogenic small ssDNA-containing virus, had useful expression-enhancing properties that could allow dose-sparing in a plasmid vaccine.


The linearised PCV-1 genome inserted 5' of the CMV promoter in the well-characterised HIV-1 plasmid vaccine pTHgrttnC increased expression of the polyantigen up to 2-fold, and elicited 3-fold higher CTL responses in mice at 10-fold lower doses than unmodified pTHgrttnC. The PCV-1 capsid gene promoter (Pcap) alone was equally effective. Enhancing activity was traced to a putative composite host transcription factor binding site and a "Conserved Late Element" transcription-enhancing sequence previously unidentified in circoviruses.


We identified a novel PCV-1 genome-derived enhancer sequence that significantly increased antigen expression from plasmids in in vitro assays, and improved immunogenicity in mice of the HIV-1 subtype C vaccine plasmid, pTHgrttnC. This should allow significant dose sparing of, or increased responses to, this and other plasmid-based vaccines. We also report investigations of the potential of other circovirus-derived sequences to be similarly used.

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