The epitope integration site for vaccine antigens determines virus control while maintaining efficacy in an engineered cancer vaccine

Mol Ther. 2013 May;21(5):1087-95. doi: 10.1038/mt.2013.52. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Picornaviruses have been developed as potential therapies for gene delivery and vaccination. One drawback to their use is the potential for recombination and viral persistence. Therefore, the engineering strategies used must take into account the possibility for virus escape. We have developed Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) as a potential vaccine vector for use in immunotherapy. This study shows that insertion of a vaccine epitope at a unique site within the TMEV leader protein can dramatically increase the type I interferon (IFN) response to infection and promote rapid viral clearance. This live virus vaccine maintains its ability to drive antigen-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses to a model antigen as well as to the weakly immunogenic tumor antigen Her2/neu. Furthermore, the epitope integration site does not affect the efficacy of this vaccine as cancer immunotherapy for treating models of melanoma and breast cancer as demonstrated by delayed tumor outgrowth and increased survival in animals implanted with these tumors. These findings show that an attenuated virus retaining limited ability to replicate nonetheless can effectively mobilize CD8(+) cellular immunity and will be important for the design of picornavirus vectors used as immunotherapy in clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / genetics
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cardiovirus Infections / immunology
  • Cardiovirus Infections / mortality
  • Cardiovirus Infections / virology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology
  • Theilovirus / genetics
  • Theilovirus / immunology*
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / immunology


  • Antigens
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Epitopes
  • Interferon Type I
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Viral Proteins
  • Receptor, ErbB-2