A novel candidate HIV vaccine vector based on the replication deficient Capripoxvirus, Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV)

BACKGROUND: The Capripoxvirus, Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) has a restricted host-range and is being investigated as a novel HIV-1 vaccine vector. LSDV does not complete its replication cycle in non-ruminant hosts. METHODS: The safety of LSDV was tested at doses of 104 and 106 plaque forming units in two strains of immunocompromised mice, namely RAG mice and CD4 T cell knockout mice. LSDV expressing HIV-1 subtype C Gag, reverse transcriptase (RT), Tat and Nef as a polyprotein (Grttn), (rLSDV-grttn), was constructed. The immunogenicity of rLSDV-grttn was tested in homologous prime-boost regimens as well as heterologous prime-boost regimes in combination with a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) or modified vaccinia Ankara vaccine (rMVA-grttn) both expressing Grttn. RESULTS: Safety was demonstrated in two strains of immunocompromised mice.In the immunogenicity experiments mice developed high magnitudes of HIV-specific cells producing IFN-gamma and IL-2. A comparison of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn to boost a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) indicated a DNA prime and rLSDV-grttn boost induced a 2 fold (p < 0.01) lower cumulative frequency of Gag- and RT-specific IFN-gamma CD8 and CD4 cells than a boost with rMVA-grttn. However, the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rLSDV-grttn boost produced greater than 3 fold (p < 0.01) more IFN- gamma than the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rMVA-grttn boost. A boost of HIV-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2 was only achieved with the DNA vaccine prime and rLSDV-grttn boost. Heterologous prime-boost combinations of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn induced similar cumulative frequencies of IFN- gamma producing Gag- and RT-specific CD8 and CD4 cells. A significant difference (p < 0.01) between the regimens was the higher capacity (2.1 fold) of Gag-and RT-specific CD4 cells to produce IFN-gamma with a rMVA-grttn prime - rLSDV-grttn boost. This regimen also induced a 1.5 fold higher (p < 0.05) frequency of Gag- and RT-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2. CONCLUSIONS: LSDV was demonstrated to be non-pathogenic in immunocompromised mice. The rLSDV-grttn vaccine was immunogenic in mice particularly in prime-boost regimens. The data suggests that this novel vaccine may be useful for enhancing, in particular, HIV-specific CD4 IFN- gamma and IL-2 responses induced by a priming vaccine.