To develop an HIV-1 accessory gene immunogen using a DNA vaccine approach.
HIV-1 accessory genes vif, vpu and nef were modified to express under the control of a single promoter with cellular proteolytic cleavage sites between the coding sequences (VVN-P). Immune responses induced by these constructs were evaluated in mice.
DNA vaccine construct (pVVN-P) expressing Vif, Vpu and Nef was processed and the fusion protein was cleaved appropriately. Vif, Vpu and Nef as a fusion protein with proteolytic cleavage sites (VVN-P) is able to induce a significant level of cellular immune responses. We also observed that accessory genes Vif, Vpu and Nef (VVN-P) induced an effective T helper 1 proliferative response measured by cytokine production. Furthermore, expression cassette pVVN-P was able to induce cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses against diverse HIV-1 viruses in infected target cells.
We conclude that cell-mediated immune responses induced by accessory gene constructs from clade B may have a broader recognition of divergent HIV-1 viruses and should be further examined for both prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination schemes against HIV-1.