Viral vectors represent an attractive technology for vaccine delivery. We exploited the integrase defective lentiviral vector (IDLV) as a platform for delivering relevant antigens within the context of the ADITEC collaborative research program. In particular, Influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) and nucleoprotein (NP) were delivered by IDLVs while H1N1 A/California/7/2009 subunit vaccine (HAp) with or without adjuvant was used to compare the immune response in a murine model of immunization. In order to maximize the antibody response against HA, both IDLVs were also pseudotyped with HA (IDLV-HA/HA and IDLV-NP/HA, respectively). Groups of CB6F1 mice were immunized intramuscularly with a single dose of IDLV-NP/HA, IDLV-HA/HA, HAp alone, or with HAp together with the systemic adjuvant MF59. Six months after the vaccine prime all groups were boosted with HAp alone. Cellular and antibody responses to influenza antigens were measured at different time points after the immunizations. Mice immunized with HA-pseudotyped IDLVs showed similar levels of anti-H1N1 IgG over time, evaluated by ELISA, which were comparable to those induced by HAp + MF59 vaccination, but significantly higher than those induced by HAp alone. The boost with HAp alone induced an increase of antibodies in all groups, and the responses were maintained at higher levels up to 18 weeks post-boost. The antibody response was functional and persistent overtime, capable of neutralizing virus infectivity, as evaluated by hemagglutination inhibition and microneutralization assays. Moreover, since neuraminidase (NA)-expressing plasmid was included during IDLV preparation, immunization with IDLV-NP/HA and IDLV-HA/HA also induced functional anti-NA antibodies, evaluated by enzyme-linked lectin assay. IFNγ-ELISPOT showed evidence of HA-specific response in IDLV-HA/HA immunized animals and persistent NP-specific CD8+ T cell response in IDLV-NP/HA immunized mice. Taken together our results indicate that IDLV can be harnessed for producing a vaccine able to induce a comprehensive immune response, including functional antibodies directed toward HA and NA proteins present on the vector particles in addition to a functional T cell response directed to the protein transcribed from the vector.
Keywords: T cell response; antibody; influenza; lentiviral vector; vaccine.