Both Humoral and Cellular Immunity Limit the Ability of Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccines to Promote T Cell Responses

J Immunol. 2023 Nov 20:ji2300343. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2300343. Online ahead of print.


One potential advantage of live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs) is their ability to establish both virus-specific Ab and tissue-resident memory T cells (TRM) in the respiratory mucosa. However, it is hypothesized that pre-existing immunity from past infections and/or immunizations prevents LAIV from boosting or generating de novo CD8+ T cell responses. To determine whether we can overcome this limitation, we generated a series of drifted influenza A/PR8 LAIVs with successive mutations in the hemagglutinin protein, allowing for increasing levels of escape from pre-existing Ab. We also inserted a CD8+ T cell epitope from the Sendai virus nucleoprotein (NP) to assess both generation of a de novo T cell response and boosting of pre-existing influenza-specific CD8+ T cells following LAIV immunization. Increasing the level of escape from Ab enabled boosting of pre-existing TRM, but we were unable to generate de novo Sendai virus NP+ CD8+ TRM following LAIV immunization in PR8 influenza-immune mice, even with LAIV strains that can fully escape pre-existing Ab. As these data suggested a role for cell-mediated immunity in limiting LAIV efficacy, we investigated several scenarios to assess the impact of pre-existing LAIV-specific TRM in the upper and lower respiratory tract. Ultimately, we found that deletion of the immunodominant influenza NP366-374 epitope allowed for sufficient escape from cellular immunity to establish de novo CD8+ TRM. When combined, these studies demonstrate that both pre-existing humoral and cellular immunity can limit the effectiveness of LAIV, which is an important consideration for future design of vaccine vectors against respiratory pathogens.