Viral vector-based vaccines that induce protective CD8+ T cell immunity can prevent or control pathogenic SIV infections, but issues of preexisting immunity and safety have impeded their implementation in HIV-1. Here, we report the development of what we believe to be a novel antigen-targeting DNA vaccine strategy that exploits the binding of programmed death-1 (PD1) to its ligands expressed on dendritic cells (DCs) by fusing soluble PD1 with HIV-1 GAG p24 antigen. As compared with non-DC-targeting vaccines, intramuscular immunization via electroporation (EP) of the fusion DNA in mice elicited consistently high frequencies of GAG-specific, broadly reactive, polyfunctional, long-lived, and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells and robust anti-GAG antibody titers. Vaccination conferred remarkable protection against mucosal challenge with vaccinia GAG viruses. Soluble PD1-based vaccination potentiated CD8+ T cell responses by enhancing antigen binding and uptake in DCs and activation in the draining lymph node. It also increased IL-12-producing DCs and engaged antigen cross-presentation when compared with anti-DEC205 antibody-mediated DC targeting. The high frequency of durable and protective GAG-specific CD8+ T cell immunity induced by soluble PD1-based vaccination suggests that PD1-based DNA vaccines could potentially be used against HIV-1 and other pathogens.
Scopus Subject Areas