Enhanced in vivo gene expression using non-viral vectors is a critical issue in gene therapy in general. Among the many potential utilities of non-viral vector-mediated gene delivery, its application in DNA-based vaccination is an attractive approach with several practical advantages over conventional vaccination. We have previously shown that the endosomolytic bacterial protein listeriolysin O (LLO) is capable of facilitating transfection in vitro using the LPDII (anionic liposome-polycation-DNA complexes) delivery system. In the present study we have extended and investigated the DNA delivery of LLO-containing LPDII to in vivo and evaluated its utility in DNA vaccination in mice. We further investigated the ability of this non-viral gene delivery system to elicit an immune response to a model antigen ovalbumin (OVA), particularly focusing on the OVA-specific CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response, after delivery of a plasmid containing the OVA cDNA. A DNA prime and protein boost protocol was employed to generate cytotoxic T cell responses. Our results show that increased in vitro and in vivo transfection efficiencies were observed when LLO was incorporated into LPDII. This LLO-LPDII formulation produced an enhanced functional antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell response in vivo compared to the heat-inactivated LLO-containing LPDII (HI-LLO-LPDII) formulation. Furthermore, a significantly higher CTL frequency was observed in the splenocytes isolated from the mice primed with LLO-LPDII by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assay. Interferon-γ production upon specific stimulation by OVA-specific CD8(+) peptide was also significantly stronger with the inclusion of LLO into LPDII. These findings suggest that the LLO-containing LPDII system possesses noteworthy potential as a candidate carrier for DNA vaccine delivery.
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