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Front Immunol. 2017 Dec 11;8:1744. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01744. eCollection 2017.

Efficacy Testing of H56 cDNA Tattoo Immunization against Tuberculosis in a Mouse Model.

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.
Department of Immunology, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany.
Microscopy Core Facility, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany.


Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), remains a global threat. The only approved vaccine against TB, Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), provides insufficient protection and, being a live vaccine, can cause disseminated disease in immunocompromised individuals. Previously, we found that intradermal cDNA tattoo immunization with cDNA of tetanus toxoid fragment C domain 1 fused to cDNA of the fusion protein H56, comprising the Mtb antigens Ag85B, ESAT-6, and Rv2660c, induced antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses in vivo. As cDNA tattoo immunization would be safer than a live vaccine in immunocompromised patients, we tested the protective efficacy of intradermal tattoo immunization against TB with H56 cDNA, as well as with H56_E, a construct optimized for epitope processing in a mouse model. As Mtb antigens can be used in combination with BCG to boost immune responses, we also tested the protective efficacy of heterologous prime-boost, using dermal tattoo immunization with H56_E cDNA to boost BCG immunization in mice. Dermal H56 and H56_E cDNA immunization induced H56-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses and Ag85B-specific IgG antibodies, but did not reduce bacterial loads, although immunization with H56_E ameliorated lung pathology. Both subcutaneous and intradermal immunization with BCG resulted in broad cellular immune responses, with increased frequencies of CD4+ T effector memory cells, T follicular helper cells, and germinal center B cells, and resulted in reduced bacterial loads and lung pathology. Heterologous vaccination with BCG/H56_E cDNA induced increased H56-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell cytokine responses compared to vaccination with BCG alone, and lung pathology was significantly decreased in BCG/H56_E cDNA immunized mice compared to unvaccinated controls. However, bacterial loads were not decreased after heterologous vaccination compared to BCG alone. CD4+ T cells responding to Ag85B- and ESAT-6-derived epitopes were predominantly IFN-γ+TNF-α+ and TNF-α+IL-2+, respectively. In conclusion, despite inducing appreciable immune responses to Ag85B and ESAT-6, intradermal H56 cDNA tattoo immunization did not substantially enhance the protective effect of BCG under the conditions tested.


DNA immunization; H56; Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette–Guérin; tuberculosis; vaccination; vaccine

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