Background: The ability of influenza vaccines to elicit CD4(+) T cells and the relationship between induction of CD4(+) T cells and vaccine-induced neutralizing antibody responses has been controversial. The emergence of swine-origin 2009 pandemic influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (A[H1N1]pdm09) provided a unique opportunity to examine responses to an influenza vaccine composed of both novel and previously encountered antigens and to probe the relationship between B-cell and T-cell responses to vaccination.
Methods: We tracked CD4(+) T-cell and antibody responses of human subjects vaccinated with monovalent subunit A(H1N1)pdm09 vaccine. The specificity and magnitude of the CD4(+) T-cell response was evaluated using cytokine enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assays in conjugation with peptide pools representing distinct influenza virus proteins.
Results: Our studies revealed that vaccination induced readily detectable CD4(+) T cells specific for conserved portions of hemagglutinin (HA) and the internal viral proteins. Interestingly, expansion of HA-specific CD4(+) T cells was most tightly correlated with the antibody response.
Conclusions: These results indicate that CD4(+) T-cell expansion may be a limiting factor in development of neutralizing antibody responses to pandemic influenza vaccines and suggest that approaches to facilitate CD4(+) T-cell recruitment may increase the neutralizing antibody produced in response to vaccines against novel influenza strains.