A prophylactic vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a top priority in biomedical research. Given the failure of conventional immunization protocols to confer robust protection against HIV, new and unconventional approaches may be needed to generate protective anti-HIV immunity. Here we vaccinated rhesus macaques (RMs) with a recombinant (r)DNA prime (without any exogenous adjuvant), followed by a booster with rhesus monkey rhadinovirus (RRV)-a herpesvirus that establishes persistent infection in RMs (Group 1). Both the rDNA and rRRV vectors encoded a near-full-length simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVnfl) genome that assembles noninfectious SIV particles and expresses all nine SIV gene products. This rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl vaccine regimen induced persistent anti-Env antibodies and CD8+ T-cell responses against the entire SIV proteome. Vaccine efficacy was assessed by repeated, marginal-dose, intrarectal challenges with SIVmac239. Encouragingly, vaccinees in Group 1 acquired SIVmac239 infection at a significantly delayed rate compared to unvaccinated controls (Group 3). In an attempt to improve upon this outcome, a separate group of rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl-vaccinated RMs (Group 2) was treated with a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4)-blocking monoclonal antibody during the vaccine phase and then challenged in parallel with Groups 1 and 3. Surprisingly, Group 2 was not significantly protected against SIVmac239 infection. In sum, SIVnfl vaccination can protect RMs against rigorous mucosal challenges with SIVmac239, a feat that until now had only been accomplished by live-attenuated strains of SIV. Further work is needed to identify the minimal requirements for this protection and whether SIVnfl vaccine efficacy can be improved by means other than anti-CTLA-4 adjuvant therapy.
Gonzalez-Nieto L, Castro IM, Bischof GF, Shin YC, Ricciardi MJ, Bailey VK, Dang CM, Pedreño-Lopez N, Magnani DM, Ejima K, Allison DB, Gil HM, Evans DT, Rakasz EG, Lifson JD, Desrosiers RC, Martins MA. (2019). Vaccine protection against rectal acquisition of SIVmac239 in rhesus macaques. PLoS pathogens, 15(9)