Systemic vaccination prevents the total destruction of mucosal CD4 T cells during acute SIV challenge

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Abstract

Background

Acute human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infections are accompanied by a systemic loss of memory CD4 T cells, with mucosal sites serving as a major site for viral replication, dissemination and CD4 T cell depletion. Protecting the mucosal CD4 T cell compartment thus is critical to contain HIV, and preserve the integrity of the mucosal immune system. The primary objective of this study was to determine if systemic vaccination with DNA/rAd-5 encoding SIV-mac239-env, gag and pol could prevent the destruction of CD4 T cells in mucosal tissues.

Methods

Rhesus macaques were immunized with DNA/r-Ad-5 encoding SIV genes and compared with those immunized with sham vectors following high dose intravenous challenge with SIVmac251. SIV specific CD4 and CD8 T cell responses, cell associated viral loads and mucosal CD4 T cell dynamics were evaluated.

Results

Strong SIV specific immune responses were induced in mucosal tissues of vaccinated animals as compared with sham controls. These responses expanded rapidly following challenge suggesting a strong anamnestic response. Immune responses were associated with a decrease in cell associated viral loads, and a loss of fewer mucosal CD4 T cells. Approximately 25% of mucosal CD4 T cells were preserved in vaccinated animals as compared with <5% in sham controls. These results demonstrate that systemic immunization strategies can induce immune responses in mucosal tissues that can protect mucosal CD4 T cells from complete destruction following challenge.

Conclusions

Preservation of mucosal CD4 T cells can contribute to maintaining immune competence in mucosal tissues and provide a substantial immune benefit to the vaccinees.

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