We investigated the ability of a plasmid-derived IL-21 delivered alone or in combination with the IL-15 gene to regulate immune responses to the HIV-1 envelope (Env) glycoprotein induced by DNA vaccination. Mice were injected with the gp140ΔCFIHXB2/89.6 vector expressing a modified Env glycoprotein with C-terminal mutations intended to mimic a fusion intermediate, in which the most divergent region encoding the variable V1, V2, and V3 domains of CXCR4-tropic HxB2 virus was replaced with the dual-tropic 89.6 viral strain. Using a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing 89.6 Env glycoprotein (vBD3) in a mouse challenge model, we observed that IL-21 plasmid produced Sustained resistance to viral transmission when injected 5 days after DNA vaccination. Moreover, IL-21 in a synergistic manner with IL-15 expression vector augmented the vaccine-induced recall responses to the vBD3 challenge compared with those elicited by immunization in the presence of either cytokine alone. The synergistic combination of IL-21 and IL-15 plasmids promoted expansion of CD8+CD127+ memory T cell pools specific for a subdominant HLA-A2-restricted Env121-129 epitope (KLTPLCVTL). Our results also show that coimmunization with IL-21 and IL-15 plasmid combination resulted in enhanced CD8+ T cell function that was partially independent of CD4+ T cell help in mediating protection against vBD3 challenge. Furthermore, the use of IL-21 and IL-15 genes was able to increase Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and complement-dependent lysis of Env-expressing target cells through augmentation of Env-specific IgG Ab levels. These data indicate that the plasmid-delivered IL-21 and IL-15 can increase the magnitude of the response to DNA vaccines.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy