HIV sequence diversity and the propensity of eliciting immunodominant responses targeting variable regions of the HIV proteome are hurdles in the development of an effective AIDS vaccine. An HIV-derived conserved element (CE) p24(gag) plasmid DNA (pDNA) vaccine is able to redirect immunodominant responses to otherwise subdominant and often more vulnerable viral targets. By homology to the HIV immunogen, seven CE were identified in SIV p27(Gag) Analysis of 31 rhesus macaques vaccinated with full-length SIV gag pDNA showed inefficient induction (58% response rate) of cellular responses targeting these CE. In contrast, all 14 macaques immunized with SIV p27CE pDNA developed robust T cell responses recognizing CE. Vaccination with p27CE pDNA was also critical for the efficient induction and increased the frequency of Ag-specific T cells with cytotoxic potential (granzyme B(+) CD107a(+)) targeting subdominant CE epitopes, compared with the responses elicited by the p57(gag) pDNA vaccine. Following p27CE pDNA priming, two booster regimens, gag pDNA or codelivery of p27CE+gag pDNA, significantly increased the levels of CE-specific T cells. However, the CE+gag pDNA booster vaccination elicited significantly broader CE epitope recognition, and thus, a more profound alteration of the immunodominance hierarchy. Vaccination with HIV molecules showed that CE+gag pDNA booster regimen further expanded the breadth of HIV CE responses. Hence, SIV/HIV vaccine regimens comprising CE pDNA prime and CE+gag pDNA booster vaccination significantly increased cytotoxic T cell responses to subdominant highly conserved Gag epitopes and maximized response breadth.
DNA Prime-Boost Vaccine Regimen To Increase Breadth, Magnitude, and Cytotoxicity of the Cellular Immune Responses to Subdominant Gag Epitopes of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and HIV.