In the course of examining epitope-specific CTL responses to intramuscular plasmid DNA immunization with influenza nucleoprotein (NP)-expressing vectors, a nonimmunogenic mutant NP (NP(o)) was identified. The coding region of NP(o) differed from the wild-type A/PR/8/34 NP sequence (designated NP(v)) by three amino acid alterations in the carboxyl-terminal portion of the molecule remote from the H-2K(d) epitope (147-155) being monitored. Correction of these mutations restored the immunogenicity of the native sequence, indicating that sequence alterations remote from the CTL epitope in question can profoundly influence its immunogenicity. In an effort to identify general, nonstructural means of enhancing the CTL response to weak plasmid DNA immunogens, vectors were constructed expressing NP(o) in tandem with the costimulatory molecules B7-1 or B7-2. Co-linear expression of NP(o) with B7-2, but not B7-1, significantly increased the NP epitope-specific CTL response. In addition, coinjection of these NP(o) plasmids with granulocyte-macrophage CSF- and/or IL-12-expressing vectors also restored near native NP-specific CTL responses. Thus, the coexpression of certain costimulatory molecules and/or cytokines, in concert with a non-self gene delivered as an intramuscular plasmid DNA immunogen, can significantly enhance Ag-specific CTL responses.
- Copyright © 1997 by American Association of Immunologists