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Human Asymptomatic Epitope Peptide/CXCL10-Based Prime/Pull Vaccine Induces Herpes Simplex Virus-Specific Gamma Interferon-Positive CD107+ CD8+ T Cells That Infiltrate the Corneas and Trigeminal Ganglia of Humanized HLA Transgenic Rabbits and Protect against Ocular Herpes Challenge.

  • Author(s): Khan, Arif A;
  • Srivastava, Ruchi;
  • Vahed, Hawa;
  • Roy, Soumyabrata;
  • Walia, Sager S;
  • Kim, Grace J;
  • Fouladi, Mona A;
  • Yamada, Taikun;
  • Ly, Vincent T;
  • Lam, Cynthia;
  • Lou, Anthony;
  • Nguyen, Vivianna;
  • Boldbaatar, Undariya;
  • Geertsema, Roger;
  • Fraser, Nigel W;
  • BenMohamed, Lbachir
  • et al.

Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a prevalent human pathogen that infects the cornea, causing potentially blinding herpetic disease. A clinical herpes vaccine is still lacking. In the present study, a novel prime/pull vaccine was tested in a human leukocyte antigen (HLA) transgenic rabbit model of ocular herpes (HLA Tg rabbits). Three peptide epitopes were selected, from the HSV-1 membrane glycoprotein C (UL44400-408), the DNA replication binding helicase (UL9196-204), and the tegument protein (UL25572-580), all preferentially recognized by CD8+ T cells from "naturally protected" HSV-1-seropositive healthy asymptomatic (ASYMP) individuals (who never had recurrent corneal herpetic disease). HLA Tg rabbits were immunized with a mixture of these three ASYMP CD8+ T cell peptide epitopes (UL44400-408, UL9196-204, and UL25572-580), which were delivered subcutaneously with CpG2007 adjuvant (prime). Fifteen days later, half of the rabbits received a topical ocular treatment with a recombinant neurotropic adeno-associated virus type 8 (AAV8) vector expressing the T cell-attracting CXCL10 chemokine (pull). The frequency and function of HSV-specific CD8+ T cells induced by the prime/pull vaccine were assessed in the peripheral blood, cornea, and trigeminal ganglion (TG). Compared to the cells generated in response to peptide immunization alone, the peptide/CXCL10 prime/pull vaccine generated frequent polyfunctional gamma interferon-positive (IFN-γ+) CD107+ CD8+ T cells that infiltrated both the cornea and TG. CD8+ T cell mobilization into the cornea and TG of prime/pull-vaccinated rabbits was associated with a significant reduction in corneal herpesvirus infection and disease following an ocular HSV-1 (strain McKrae) challenge. These findings draw attention to the novel prime/pull vaccine strategy for mobilizing antiviral CD8+ T cells into tissues to protect against herpesvirus infection and disease.IMPORTANCE There is an urgent need for a vaccine against widespread herpes simplex virus infections. The present study demonstrates that immunization of HLA transgenic rabbits with a peptide/CXCL10 prime/pull vaccine triggered mobilization of HSV-specific CD8+ T cells locally into the cornea and TG, the sites of acute and latent herpesvirus infections, respectively. Mobilization of antiviral CD8+ T cells into the cornea and TG of rabbits that received the prime/pull vaccine was associated with protection against ocular herpesvirus infection and disease following an ocular HSV-1 challenge. These results highlight the importance of the prime/pull vaccine strategy to bolster the number and function of protective CD8+ T cells within infected tissues.

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