Induction of an IFN-Mediated Antiviral Response by a Self-Amplifying RNA Vaccine: Implications for Vaccine Design

J Immunol. 2017 May 15;198(10):4012-4024. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1601877. Epub 2017 Apr 17.


RNA-based vaccines have recently emerged as a promising alternative to the use of DNA-based and viral vector vaccines, in part because of the potential to simplify how vaccines are made and facilitate a rapid response to newly emerging infections. SAM vaccines are based on engineered self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) replicons encoding an Ag, and formulated with a synthetic delivery system, and they induce broad-based immune responses in preclinical animal models. In our study, in vivo imaging shows that after the immunization, SAM Ag expression has an initial gradual increase. Gene expression profiling in injection-site tissues from mice immunized with SAM-based vaccine revealed an early and robust induction of type I IFN and IFN-stimulated responses at the site of injection, concurrent with the preliminary reduced SAM Ag expression. This SAM vaccine-induced type I IFN response has the potential to provide an adjuvant effect on vaccine potency, or, conversely, it might establish a temporary state that limits the initial SAM-encoded Ag expression. To determine the role of the early type I IFN response, SAM vaccines were evaluated in IFN receptor knockout mice. Our data indicate that minimizing the early type I IFN responses may be a useful strategy to increase primary SAM expression and the resulting vaccine potency. RNA sequence modification, delivery optimization, or concurrent use of appropriate compounds might be some of the strategies to finalize this aim.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Drug Design*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Interferon Type I / biosynthesis
  • Interferon Type I / immunology*
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Messenger / immunology*
  • RNA, Messenger / physiology
  • RNA, Viral / immunology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / chemistry
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / immunology
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccine Potency
  • Viral Vaccines / genetics
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens
  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Vaccines