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PLoS One. 2017 Aug 16;12(8):e0183377. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183377. eCollection 2017.

Comparison of homologous and heterologous prime-boost vaccine approaches using Modified Vaccinia Ankara and soluble protein to induce neutralizing antibodies by the human cytomegalovirus pentamer complex in mice.

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Department of Experimental Therapeutics, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, CA, United States of America.
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States of America.
Center for Comparative Medicine, California National Primate Research Center, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States of America.


Since neutralizing antibodies (NAb) targeting the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) pentamer complex (PC) potently block HCMV host cell entry, anti-PC NAb induction is thought to be important for a vaccine formulation to prevent HCMV infection. By developing a vaccine strategy based on soluble PC protein and using a previously generated Modified Vaccinia Ankara vector co-expressing all five PC subunits (MVA-PC), we compared HCMV NAb induction by homologous immunization using prime-boost vaccine regimen employing only PC protein or MVA-PC and heterologous immunization using prime-boost combinations of PC protein and MVA-PC. Utilizing a recently isolated anti-PC NAb, we produced highly pure soluble PC protein that displayed conformational and linear neutralizing epitopes, interfered with HCMV entry, and was recognized by antibodies induced by HCMV during natural infection. Mice vaccinated by different immunization routes with the purified PC protein in combination with a clinically approved adjuvant formulation elicited high-titer and durable HCMV NAb. While MVA-PC and soluble PC protein either alone or in combination elicited robust HCMV NAb, significantly different potencies of these vaccine approaches were observed in dependence on immunization schedule. Using only two immunizations, vaccination with MVA-PC alone or prime-boost combinations of MVA-PC and PC protein was significantly more effective in stimulating HCMV NAb than immunization with PC protein alone. In contrast, with three immunizations, NAb induced by soluble PC protein either alone or combined with two boosts of MVA-PC increased to levels that exceeded NAb titer stimulated by MVA-PC alone. These results provide insights into the potency of soluble protein and MVA to elicit NAb by the HCMV PC via homologous and heterologous prime-boost immunization, which may contribute to develop clinically deployable vaccine strategies to prevent HCMV infection.

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