Herpes zoster (HZ), or shingles, is caused by the reactivation of latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV) from the sensory ganglia when VZV-specific T-cell immunity is decreased because of aging or immunosuppression. In the present study, we developed HZ DNA vaccine candidates encoding VZV proteins and cytokine adjuvants, such as IL-7 and IL-33. We immunized C57BL/6 mice with DNA plasmids encoding VZV glycoprotein E (gE), immediate early (IE) 63, or IE62 proteins and found that robust VZV protein-specific T-cell responses were elicited by HZ DNA vaccination. Co-administration of DNA plasmids encoding IL-7 or IL-33 in HZ DNA vaccination significantly enhanced the magnitude of VZV protein-specific T-cell responses. Protective immunity elicited by HZ DNA vaccination was proven by challenge experiments with a surrogate virus, vaccinia virus expressing gE (VV-gE). A single dose of HZ DNA vaccine strongly boosted gE-specific T-cell responses in mice with a history of previous infection by VV-gE. Thus, HZ DNA vaccines with IL-7 and IL-33 adjuvants strongly elicit protective immunity.
Keywords: DNA vaccines; Herpes zoster; IL-33; IL-7; T-cells.