Approximately 50% of rhesus macaques (RMs) expressing the major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) allele Mamu-B*08 spontaneously control chronic-phase viremia after infection with the pathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus mac239 (SIVmac239) clone. CD8+ T-cell responses in these animals are focused on immunodominant Mamu-B*08-restricted SIV epitopes in Vif and Nef, and prophylactic vaccination with these epitopes increases the incidence of elite control in SIVmac239-infected Mamu-B*08-positive (Mamu-B*08+ ) RMs. Here we evaluated if robust vaccine-elicited CD8+ T-cell responses against Vif and Nef can prevent systemic infection in Mamu-B*08+ RMs following mucosal SIV challenges. Ten Mamu-B*08+ RMs were vaccinated with a heterologous prime/boost/boost regimen encoding Vif and Nef, while six sham-vaccinated MHC-I-matched RMs served as the controls for this experiment. Vaccine-induced CD8+ T cells against Mamu-B*08-restricted SIV epitopes reached high frequencies in blood but were present at lower levels in lymph node and gut biopsy specimens. Following repeated intrarectal challenges with SIVmac239, all control RMs became infected by the sixth SIV exposure. By comparison, four vaccinees were still uninfected after six challenges, and three of them remained aviremic after 3 or 4 additional challenges. The rate of SIV acquisition in the vaccinees was numerically lower (albeit not statistically significantly) than that in the controls. However, peak viremia was significantly reduced in infected vaccinees compared to control animals. We found no T-cell markers that distinguished vaccinees that acquired SIV infection from those that did not. Additional studies will be needed to validate these findings and determine if cellular immunity can be harnessed to prevent the establishment of productive immunodeficiency virus infection.IMPORTANCE It is generally accepted that the antiviral effects of vaccine-induced classical CD8+ T-cell responses against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are limited to partial reductions in viremia after the establishment of productive infection. Here we show that rhesus macaques (RMs) vaccinated with Vif and Nef acquired simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection at a lower (albeit not statistically significant) rate than control RMs following repeated intrarectal challenges with a pathogenic SIV clone. All animals in the present experiment expressed the elite control-associated major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecule Mamu-B*08 that binds immunodominant epitopes in Vif and Nef. Though preliminary, these results provide tantalizing evidence that the protective efficacy of vaccine-elicited CD8+ T cells may be greater than previously thought. Future studies should examine if vaccine-induced cellular immunity can prevent systemic viral replication in RMs that do not express MHC-I alleles associated with elite control of SIV infection.
Keywords: human immunodeficiency virus; simian immunodeficiency virus; vaccines.
Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.