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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 5;9(2):e88327. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088327. eCollection 2014.

Fusion of ubiquitin to HIV gag impairs human monocyte-derived dendritic cell maturation and reduces ability to induce gag T cell responses.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Imperial College London, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
  • 2School of Biological Science, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom.
  • 3Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology, Guys Hospital, Kings College London, London, United Kingdom.


The efficient induction of CD8 T cell immunity is dependent on the processing and presentation of antigen on MHC class I molecules by professional antigen presenting cells (APC). To develop an improved T cell vaccine for HIV we investigated whether fusing the ubiquitin gene to the N terminus of the HIV gag gene enhanced targeting to the proteasome resulting in better CD8 T cell responses. Human monocyte derived dendritic cells (moDC), transduced with adenovirus vectors carrying either ubiquitinated or non-ubiquitinated gag transgene constructs, were co-cultured with autologous naïve T cells and T cell responses were measured after several weekly cycles of stimulation. Despite targeting of the ubiquitin gag transgene protein to the proteasome, ubiquitination did not increase CD8 T cell immune responses and in some cases diminished responses to gag peptides. There were no marked differences in cytokines produced from ubiquitinated and non-ubiquitinated gag stimulated cultures or in the expression of inhibitory molecules on expanded T cells. However, the ability of moDC transduced with ubiquitinated gag gene to upregulate co-stimulatory molecules was reduced, whilst no difference in moDC maturation was observed with a control ubiquitinated and non-ubiquitinated MART gene. Furthermore moDC transduced with ubiquitinated gag produced more IL-10 than transduction with unmodified gag. Thus failure of gag ubiquitination to enhance CD8 responses may be caused by suppression of moDC maturation. These results indicate that when designing a successful vaccine strategy to target a particular cell population, attention must also be given to the effect of the vaccine on APCs.

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