Characterization of the in situ immunological responses to vaccine adjuvants.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a single-stranded, enveloped RNA virus capable of causing encephalitic disease in horses. Unvaccinated horses are at risk for developing WNV disease in endemic geographic regions. Effective vaccination reduces disease frequency and diminishes disease severity in vaccinated individuals that become infected with WNV. Recent data indicate CD4+ lymphocytes are required for effective protection against disease; in particular, cross talk between CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes must be functional. The objective of this project was to investigate immune responses in horses throughout a series of three vaccinations using a commercial inactivated vaccine under natural conditions. Immune responses to vaccination were determined by neutralizing antibody titers with plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT), IgM titer (capture ELISA), WNV specific antibody Ig subclass responses, WNV lymphocyte proliferative responses and intracellular cytokine expression. Horses were vaccinated with a series of three vaccines at 3-week intervals using an inactivated product. An initial measure of immune activation following vaccination was determined by evaluating changes in lymphocyte cytokine expression. Interferon (IFN) gamma and interleukin (IL)-4 expressing CD4+ lymphocytes significantly increased 14 days following initial vaccination compared to unvaccinated horses (P<0.05). IFN-gamma expressing CD8+ lymphocytes also increased and remained elevated for 110 days. Antigen specific lymphocyte proliferative responses were significantly increased up to 90 days following the third vaccination (P<0.05). As expected, vaccinated horses produced increased neutralizing antibody based on PRNT data and WNV antigen-specific Ig subclass responses compared with unvaccinated horses (P<0.05). Our data indicate that WNV vaccination with an inactivated product effectively induced an antigen-specific antibody responses, as well as CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte activation.