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Vaccine. 2001 Apr 6;19(20-22):2862-77.

Vaccination with DNA containing tat coding sequences and unmethylated CpG motifs protects cynomolgus monkeys upon infection with simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV89.6P).

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Laboratory of Virology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy.


Recent evidence suggests that a CD8-mediated cytotoxic T cell response against the Tat protein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) controls primary infection after pathogenic virus challenge, and correlates with the status of long-term nonprogressor in humans. Due to the presence of unmethylated CpG sequences, DNA vaccination can boost the innate immunity driving more potent T cell-mediated immune responses. Therefore, cynomolgus monkeys were vaccinated with a tat-expressing vector containing defined unmethylated CpG sequences (pCV-tat). Here it is shown that the intramuscular inoculation of the pCV-tat contained primary infection with the highly pathogenic SHIV89.6P virus preventing the CD4(+) T cell decline in all the vaccinated monkeys. Undetectable virus replication and negative virus isolation correlated in all cases with the presence of anti-Tat CTLs. However, a CD8-mediated non cytolytic antiviral activity was also present in all protected animals. Of note, this activity was absent in the controls but was present in the monkey inoculated with the CpG-rich vector alone that was partially protected against viral challenge (i.e. no virus replication but positive virus isolation). These results suggest that a CTL response against Tat protects against primary infection by blocking virus replication at its early stage, in the absence of sterilizing immunity. Nevertheless, the boost of the innate immunity by CpG sequences can contribute to this protection both by driving more potent CTL responses and by inducing other CD8-mediated antiviral activities. Thus, the CpG-rich tat DNA vaccine may represent a promising candidate for preventive and therapeutic vaccination against AIDS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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