DNA Vectors Generating Engineered Exosomes Potential CTL Vaccine Candidates Against AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Tumors

Mol Biotechnol. 2018 Nov;60(11):773-782. doi: 10.1007/s12033-018-0114-3.


Eukaryotic cells constitutively produce nanovesicles of 50-150 nm of diameter, referred to as exosomes, upon release of the contents of multivesicular bodies (MVBs). We recently characterized a novel, exosome-based way to induce cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) immunization against full-length antigens. It is based on DNA vectors expressing products of fusion between the exosome-anchoring protein Nef mutant (Nefmut) with the antigen of interest. The strong efficiency of Nefmut to accumulate in MVBs results in the production of exosomes incorporating huge amounts of the desired antigen. When translated in animals, the injection of Nefmut-based DNA vectors generates engineered exosomes whose internalization in antigen-presenting cells induces cross-priming and antigen-specific CTL immunity. Here, we describe the molecular strategies we followed to produce DNA vectors aimed at generating immunogenic exosomes potentially useful to elicit a CTL immune response against antigens expressed by the etiologic agents of major chronic viral infections, i.e., HIV-1, HBV, and the novel tumor-associated antigen HOXB7. Unique methods intended to counteract intrinsic RNA instability and nuclear localization of the antigens have been developed. The success we met with the production of these engineered exosomes opens the way towards pre-clinic experimentations devoted to the optimization of new vaccine candidates against major infectious and tumor pathologies.

Keywords: Constitutive transport elements; Exosomes; HBV; HIV-1; HOXB7; Nef.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Exosomes / genetics*
  • Exosomes / immunology
  • Gene Products, nef / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / administration & dosage*
  • Genetic Vectors / immunology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hepatitis B / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Gene Products, nef
  • Vaccines