Vaccine 2016 Sep 1434(44) 5251-5261 pii 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.09.009
Smallpox was eradicated by a global program of inoculation with Vaccinia virus (VV). Robust VV-specific CD4 T-cell responses during primary infection are likely essential to controlling VV replication. Although there is increasing interest in cytolytic CD4 T-cells across many viral infections, the importance of these cells during acute VV infection is unclear.
We undertook a detailed functional and genetic characterization of CD4 T-cells during acute VV-infection of humans. VV-specific T-cells were identified by up-regulation of activation markers directly ex vivo and through cytokine and co-stimulatory molecule expression. At day-13-post primary inoculation with VV, CD38highCD45RO+ CD4 T-cells were purified by cell sorting, RNA isolated and analysed by microarray. Differential expression of up-regulated genes in activated CD4 T-cells was confirmed at the mRNA and protein levels. We compared analyses of VV-specific CD4 T-cells to studies on 12 subjects with primary HIV infection (PHI). VV-specific T-cells lines were established from PBMCs collected post vaccination and checked for cytotoxicity potential.
A median 11.9% CD4 T-cells were CD38highCD45RO+ at day-13 post-VV inoculation, compared to 3.0% prior and 10.4% during PHI. Activated CD4 T-cells had an up-regulation of genes related to cytolytic function, including granzymes K and A, perforin, granulysin, TIA-1, and Rab27a. No difference was seen between CD4 T-cell expression of perforin or TIA-1 to VV and PHI, however granzyme k was more dominant in the VV response. At 25:1 effector to target ratio, two VV-specific T-cell lines exhibited 62% and 30% cytotoxicity respectively and CD107a degranulation.
We show for the first time that CD4 CTL are prominent in the early response to VV. Understanding the role of CD4 CTL in the generation of an effective anti-viral memory may help develop more effective vaccines for diseases such as HIV.