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J Virol. 2012 Apr;86(8):4082-90. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06535-11. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Superior induction of T cell responses to conserved HIV-1 regions by electroporated alphavirus replicon DNA compared to that with conventional plasmid DNA vaccine.

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Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Vaccination using "naked" DNA is a highly attractive strategy for induction of pathogen-specific immune responses; however, it has been only weakly immunogenic in humans. Previously, we constructed DNA-launched Semliki Forest virus replicons (DREP), which stimulate pattern recognition receptors and induce augmented immune responses. Also, in vivo electroporation was shown to enhance immune responses induced by conventional DNA vaccines. Here, we combine these two approaches and show that in vivo electroporation increases CD8(+) T cell responses induced by DREP and consequently decreases the DNA dose required to induce a response. The vaccines used in this study encode the multiclade HIV-1 T cell immunogen HIVconsv, which is currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Using intradermal delivery followed by electroporation, the DREP.HIVconsv DNA dose could be reduced to as low as 3.2 ng to elicit frequencies of HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cells comparable to those induced by 1 μg of a conventional pTH.HIVconsv DNA vaccine, representing a 625-fold molar reduction in dose. Responses induced by both DREP.HIVconsv and pTH.HIVconsv were further increased by heterologous vaccine boosts employing modified vaccinia virus Ankara MVA.HIVconsv and attenuated chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdV63.HIVconsv. Using the same HIVconsv vaccines, the mouse observations were supported by an at least 20-fold-lower dose of DNA vaccine in rhesus macaques. These data point toward a strategy for overcoming the low immunogenicity of DNA vaccines in humans and strongly support further development of the DREP vaccine platform for clinical evaluation.

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