Systems Vaccinology for a Live Attenuated Tularemia Vaccine Reveals Unique Transcriptional Signatures That Predict Humoral and Cellular Immune Responses

Vaccines (Basel). 2019 Dec 24;8(1):4. doi: 10.3390/vaccines8010004.


Background: Tularemia is a potential biological weapon due to its high infectivity and ease of dissemination. This study aimed to characterize the innate and adaptive responses induced by two different lots of a live attenuated tularemia vaccine and compare them to other well-characterized viral vaccine immune responses. Methods: Microarray analyses were performed on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to determine changes in transcriptional activity that correlated with changes detected by cellular phenotyping, cytokine signaling, and serological assays. Transcriptional profiles after tularemia vaccination were compared with yellow fever [YF-17D], inactivated [TIV], and live attenuated [LAIV] influenza. Results: Tularemia vaccine lots produced strong innate immune responses by Day 2 after vaccination, with an increase in monocytes, NK cells, and cytokine signaling. T cell responses peaked at Day 14. Changes in gene expression, including upregulation of STAT1, GBP1, and IFIT2, predicted tularemia-specific antibody responses. Changes in CCL20 expression positively correlated with peak CD8+ T cell responses, but negatively correlated with peak CD4+ T cell activation. Tularemia vaccines elicited gene expression signatures similar to other replicating vaccines, inducing early upregulation of interferon-inducible genes. Conclusions: A systems vaccinology approach identified that tularemia vaccines induce a strong innate immune response early after vaccination, similar to the response seen after well-studied viral vaccines, and produce unique transcriptional signatures that are strongly correlated to the induction of T cell and antibody responses.

Keywords: comparative vaccines; immune signaling; live attenuated vaccines; transcriptomics; tularemia.