Influenza viruses are responsible for substantial morbidity and mortality during seasonal epidemics. Vaccination is the most effective method to prevent infection, however due to antigenic drift of the viral surface protein hemagglutinin (HA), annual influenza virus vaccination is required. In addition to seasonal viruses, certain (avian) influenza A viruses of other subtypes, like H5N1 or H7N9, cause sporadic zoonotic infections. Therefore, the availability of game-changing novel vaccines that induce "universal" immune responses to a wide variety of influenza A virus subtypes is highly desirable. The quest for universal influenza vaccines has fueled the interest in broadly-reactive antibodies specific for the stalk of hemagglutinin (HA) and biological activities of antibodies other than direct virus neutralization, like antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). In the present study, we investigated the ADCC response upon influenza virus vaccination and infection in humans using a robust ADCC assay that is based on the use of recombinant HA and a continuous NK cell line that expresses FcγRIII (CD16). This assay offers advantages over existing methods, like ease to perform and possibilities to standardize. We showed that HA-specific ADCC mediating antibodies are induced by vaccination with adjuvanted trivalent seasonal and monovalent H1N1pdm09 inactivated vaccines, and by infection with H1N1pdm09 virus. In addition, the use of chimeric influenza HA with a H1 stem but antigenically irrelevant head domain derived from an avian virus allowed detection of H1-stalk-specific ADCC mediating antibodies. This assay will facilitate the assessment of ADCC mediating serum antibodies after (universal) influenza vaccination or infection and may define ADCC activity as a correlate of (cross-) protection in the future.
Keywords: Antibodies; Antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity; Influenza virus; Natural killer cells.
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