DNA electroporation is a powerful vaccine strategy that could be rapidly adapted to address emerging viruses. We therefore compared cellular and humoral immune responses in mice vaccinated with DNA expression plasmids encoding either the wildtype or a codon-optimized sequence of hemagglutinin from the novel swine origin H1N1 influenza virus. While expression of HA from the wildtype sequence was hardly detectable, the H1N1 hemagglutinin was well expressed from the codon-optimized sequence. Despite poor expression of the wildtype sequence, both plasmids induced similar levels of CD4(+) T-cell responses. However, CD8(+) T-cell and antibody responses were substantially higher after immunization with the codon-optimized DNA vaccine. Thus, efficient induction of immune effector mechanisms against HA of the novel H1N1 influenza virus requires codon-optimization of the DNA vaccines. Since DNA vaccines and several viral vector vaccines employ the same cellular RNA-Polymerase II dependent expression pathway, the poor expression levels from wildtype HA sequences might also limit the induction of immune effector mechanisms by such viral vector vaccines.
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