Toward the goal of developing an effective HIV vaccine that can be administered in infancy to protect against postnatal and lifelong sexual HIV transmission risks, the current pilot study was designed to compare the effect of novel adjuvants on the induction of HIV Env-specific antibody responses in infant macaques. Aligning our studies with the adjuvanted proteins evaluated in a prime-boost schedule with ALVAC in the ongoing HVTN (HIV Vaccine Trials Network) 702 efficacy trial, we selected the bivalent clade C Env immunogens gp120 C.1086 and gp120 TV1 in combination with the MF59 adjuvant. However, we hypothesized that the adjuvant system AS01, that is included in the pediatric RTS,S malaria vaccine, would promote Env-specific antibody responses superior to those of the oil-in-water MF59 emulsion adjuvant. In a second study arm, we compared two emulsions, glucopyranosyl lipid adjuvant formulated in a stable emulsion (GLA-SE) and 3M-052-SE, containing Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and TLR7/TLR8 (TLR7/8) ligand, respectively. The latter adjuvant had been previously demonstrated to be especially effective in activating neonatal antigen-presenting cells. Our results demonstrate that different adjuvants drive quantitatively or qualitatively distinct responses to the bivalent Env vaccine. AS01 induced higher Env-specific plasma IgG antibody levels than the antigen in MF59 and promoted improved antibody function in infants, and 3M-052-SE outperformed GLA-SE by inducing the highest breadth and functionality of antibody responses. Thus, distinct adjuvants are likely to be required for maximizing vaccine-elicited immune responses in infants, particularly when immunization in infancy aims to elicit both perinatal and lifelong immunity against challenging pathogens such as HIV.IMPORTANCE Alum remains the adjuvant of choice for pediatric vaccines. Yet the distinct nature of the developing immune system in infants likely requires novel adjuvants targeted specifically at the pediatric population to reach maximal vaccine efficacy with an acceptable safety profile. The current study supports the idea that additional adjuvants for pediatric vaccines should be, and need to be, tested in infants for their potential to enhance immune responses. Using an infant macaque model, our results suggest that both AS01 and 3M-052-SE can significantly improve and better sustain HIV Env-specific antibody responses than alum. Despite the limited number of animals, the results revealed interesting differences that warrant further testing of promising novel adjuvant candidates in larger preclinical and clinical studies to define the mechanisms leading to adjuvant-improved antibody responses and to identify targets for adjuvant and vaccine optimization.
Keywords: HIV; adjuvant; antibody response; pediatric vaccine.
Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.