From Variation of Influenza Viral Proteins to Vaccine Development
Influenza CD8+ T-cell epitopes are conserved amongst influenza strains and can be recognized by influenza-specific cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs), which can rapidly clear infected cells. An influenza peptide vaccine that elicits these CTLs would therefore be an alternative to current influenza vaccines, which are not cross-reactive. However, peptide antigens are poorly immunogenic due to lack of delivery to antigen presenting cells, and therefore need additional formulation with a suitable delivery system. In this study, the potential of virosomes as a delivery system for an influenza T-cell peptide was investigated. The conserved human HLA-A2.1 influenza T-cell epitope M158–66 was formulated with virosomes. The immunogenicity and protective effect of the peptide-loaded virosomes was assessed in HLA-A2 transgenic mice. Delivery properties of the virosomes were studied in mice and in in vitro dendritic cell cultures. Immunization of HLA-A2.1 transgenic C57BL/6 mice with peptide-loaded virosomes in the presence of the adjuvant CpG-ODN 1826 increased the number of peptide-specific CTLs. Vaccination with adjuvanted peptide-loaded virosomes reduced weight loss in mice after heterologous influenza infection. Association with fusion-active virosomes was found to be crucial for antigen uptake by dendritic cells, and subsequent induction of CTLs in mice. These results show that influenza virosomes loaded with conserved influenza epitopes could be the basis of a novel cross-protective influenza vaccine.