Similar T-cell immune responses induced by group M consensus env immunogens with wild-type or minimum consensus variable regions.
Consensus HIV-1 genes can decrease the genetic distances between candidate immunogens and field virus strains. To ensure the functionality and optimal presentation of immunologic epitopes, we generated two group-M consensus env genes that contain variable regions either from a wild-type B/C recombinant virus isolate (CON6) or minimal consensus elements (CON-S) in the V1, V2, V4, and V5 regions. C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice were primed twice with CON6, CON-S, and subtype control (92UG37_A and HXB2/Bal_B) DNA and boosted with recombinant vaccinia virus (rVV). Mean antibody titers against 92UG37_A, 89.6_B, 96ZM651_C, CON6, and CON-S Env protein were determined. Both CON6 and CON-S induced higher mean antibody titers against several of the proteins, as compared with the subtype controls. However, no significant differences were found in mean antibody titers in animals immunized with CON6 or CON-S. Cellular immune responses were measured by using five complete Env overlapping peptide sets: subtype A (92UG37_A), subtype B (MN_B, 89.6_B and SF162_B), and subtype C (Chn19_C). The intensity of the induced cellular responses was measured by using pooled Env peptides; T-cell epitopes were identified by using matrix peptide pools and individual peptides. No significant differences in T-cell immune-response intensities were noted between CON6 and CON-S immunized BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice. In BALB/c mice, 10 and eight nonoverlapping T-cell epitopes were identified in CON6 and CON-S, whereas eight epitopes were identified in 92UG37_A and HXB2/BAL_B. In C57BL/6 mice, nine and six nonoverlapping T-cell epitopes were identified after immunization with CON6 and CON-S, respectively, whereas only four and three were identified in 92UG37_A and HXB2/BAL_B, respectively. When combined together from both mouse strains, 18 epitopes were identified. The group M artificial consensus env genes, CON6 and CON-S, were equally immunogenic in breadth and intensity for inducing humoral and cellular immune responses.
Weaver, EA; Camacho, ZT; Gao, F
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