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J Virol. 2019 Feb 19;93(5). pii: e01586-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01586-18. Print 2019 Mar 1.

A Highly Attenuated Vesicular Stomatitis Virus-Based Vaccine Platform Controls Hepatitis B Virus Replication in Mouse Models of Hepatitis B.

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Department of Immunology and Microbial Disease, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, USA.
Department of Pathology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Department of Immunology and Microbial Disease, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, USA


Therapeutic vaccines may be an important component of a treatment regimen for curing chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. We previously demonstrated that recombinant wild-type vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) expressing the HBV middle surface glycoprotein (MHBs) elicits functional immune responses in mouse models of HBV replication. However, VSV has some undesirable pathogenic properties, and the use of this platform in humans requires further viral attenuation. We therefore generated a highly attenuated VSV that expresses MHBs and contains two attenuating mutations. This vector was evaluated for immunogenicity, pathogenesis, and anti-HBV function in mice. Compared to wild-type VSV, the highly attenuated virus displayed markedly reduced pathogenesis but induced similar MHBs-specific CD8+ T cell and antibody responses. The CD8+ T cell responses elicited by this vector in naive mice prevented HBV replication in animals that were later challenged by hydrodynamic injection or transduction with adeno-associated virus encoding the HBV genome (AAV-HBV). In mice in which persistent HBV replication was first established by AAV-HBV transduction, subsequent immunization with the attenuated VSV induced MHBs-specific CD8+ T cell responses that corresponded with reductions in serum and liver HBV antigens and nucleic acids. HBV control was associated with an increase in the frequency of intrahepatic HBV-specific CD8+ T cells and a transient elevation in serum alanine aminotransferase activity. The ability of VSV to induce a robust multispecific T cell response that controls HBV replication combined with the improved safety profile of the highly attenuated vector suggests that this platform offers a new approach for HBV therapeutic vaccination.IMPORTANCE A curative treatment for chronic hepatitis B must eliminate the virus from the liver, but current antiviral therapies typically fail to do so. Immune-mediated resolution of infection occurs in a small fraction of chronic HBV patients, which suggests the potential efficacy of therapeutic strategies that boost the patient's own immune response to the virus. We modified a safe form of VSV to express an immunogenic HBV protein and evaluated the efficacy of this vector in the prevention and treatment of HBV infection in mouse models. Our results show that this vector elicits HBV-specific immune responses that prevent the establishment of HBV infection and reduce viral proteins in the serum and viral DNA/RNA in the liver of mice with persistent HBV replication. These findings suggest that highly attenuated and safe virus-based vaccine platforms have the potential to be utilized for the development of an effective therapeutic vaccine against chronic HBV infection.


adeno-associated virus; chronic hepatitis B; immunotherapy; immunotolerance; therapeutic vaccines; vesicular stomatitis virus

[Available on 2019-08-19]

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