APRIL:TACI axis is dispensable for the immune response to rabies vaccination

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Abstract

There is significant need to develop a single-dose rabies vaccine to replace the current multi-dose rabies vaccine regimen and eliminate the requirement for rabies immune globulin in post-exposure settings. To accomplish this goal, rabies virus (RABV)-based vaccines must rapidly activate B cells to secrete antibodies which neutralize pathogenic RABV before it enters the CNS. Increased understanding of how B cells effectively respond to RABV-based vaccines may improve efforts to simplify post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) regimens. Several studies have successfully employed the TNF family cytokine a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) as a vaccine adjuvant. APRIL binds to the receptors TACI and B cell maturation antigen (BCMA)–expressed by B cells in various stages of maturation–with high affinity. We discovered that RABV-infected primary murine B cells upregulate APRIL ex vivo. Cytokines present at the time of antigen exposure affect the outcome of vaccination by influencing T and B cell activation and GC formation. Therefore, we hypothesized that the presence of APRIL at the time of RABV-based vaccine antigen exposure would support the generation of protective antibodies against RABV glycoprotein (G). In an effort to improve the response to RABV vaccination, we constructed and characterized a live recombinant RABV-based vaccine vector which expresses murine APRIL (rRABV-APRIL). Immunogenicity testing in mice demonstrated that expressing APRIL from the RABV genome does not impact the primary antibody response against RABV G compared to RABV alone. In order to evaluate the necessity of APRIL for the response to rabies vaccination, we compared the responses of APRIL-deficient and wild-type mice to immunization with rRABV. APRIL deficiency does not affect the primary antibody response to vaccination. Furthermore, APRIL expression by the vaccine did not improve the generation of long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells (PCs) as serum antibody levels were equivalent in response to rRABV-APRIL and the vector eight weeks after immunization. Moreover, APRIL is dispensable for the long-lived antibody-secreting PC response to rRABV vaccination as anti-RABV G IgG levels were similar in APRIL-deficient and wild-type mice six months after vaccination. Mice lacking the APRIL receptor TACI demonstrated primary anti-RABV G antibody responses similar to wild-type mice following immunization with the vaccine vector indicating that this response is independent of TACI-mediated signals. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that APRIL and associated TACI signaling is dispensable for the immune response to RABV-based vaccination.

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