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Impact of Th1 CD4 Follicular Helper T Cell Skewing on Antibody Responses to an HIV-1 Vaccine in Rhesus Macaques


Generating durable humoral immunity through vaccination depends upon effective interactions of follicular helper T (Tfh) cells with germinal center (GC) B cells. Th1 polarization of Tfh cells is an important process shaping the success of Tfh-GC B cell interactions by influencing costimulatory and cytokine-dependent Tfh help to B cells. However, the question remains as to whether adjuvant-dependent modulation of Tfh cells enhances HIV-1 vaccine-induced antienvelope (anti-Env) antibody responses. We investigated whether an HIV-1 vaccine platform designed to increase the number of Th1-polarized Tfh cells enhances the magnitude and quality of anti-Env antibodies. Utilizing a novel interferon-induced protein 10 (IP-10)-adjuvanted HIV-1 DNA prime followed by a monophosphoryl lipid A and QS-21 (MPLA+QS-21)-adjuvanted Env protein boost (DIP-10 PALFQ) in macaques, we observed higher anti-Env serum IgG titers with greater cross-clade reactivity, specificity for V1V2, and effector functions than in macaques primed with DNA lacking IP-10 and boosted with MPLA-plus-alum-adjuvanted Env protein (DPALFA) The DIP-10 PALFQ vaccine regimen elicited higher anti-Env IgG1 and lower IgG4 antibody levels in serum, showing for the first time that adjuvants can dramatically impact the IgG subclass profile in macaques. The DIP-10 PALFQ regimen also increased vaginal and rectal IgA antibodies to a greater extent. Within lymph nodes, we observed augmented GC B cell responses and the promotion of Th1 gene expression profiles in GC Tfh cells. The frequency of GC Tfh cells correlated with both the magnitude and avidity of anti-Env serum IgG. Together, these data suggest that adjuvant-induced stimulation of Th1-Tfh cells is an effective strategy for enhancing the magnitude and quality of anti-Env antibody responses.IMPORTANCE The results of the RV144 trial demonstrated that vaccination could prevent HIV transmission in humans and that longevity of anti-Env antibodies may be key to this protection. Efforts to improve upon the prime-boost vaccine regimen used in RV144 have indicated that booster immunizations can increase serum anti-Env antibody titers but only transiently. Poor antibody durability hampers efforts to develop an effective HIV-1 vaccine. This study was designed to identify the specific elements involved in the immunological mechanism necessary to produce robust HIV-1-specific antibodies in rhesus macaques. By clearly defining immune-mediated pathways that improve the magnitude and functionality of the anti-HIV-1 antibody response, we will have the foundation necessary for the rational development of an HIV-1 vaccine.

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