Scott G. Hansen 1 , Julia C. Ford 1 , Matthew S. Lewis 1 , Abigail B. Ventura 1 , Colette M. Hughes 1 , Lia Coyne-Johnson 1 , Nathan Whizin 1 , Kelli Oswald 2 , Rebecca Shoemaker 2 , Tonya Swanson 1 , Alfred W. Legasse 1 , Maria J. Chiuchiolo 3 , Christopher L. Parks 3 , Michael K. Axthelm 1 , Jay A. Nelson 1 , Michael A. Jarvis 1 , Michael Piatak Jr. 2 , Jeffrey D. Lifson 2 , Louis J. Picker 1
11 May 2011
The AIDS-causing lentiviruses HIV and SIV effectively evade host immunity, and once established, infections with these viruses are only rarely controlled by immunologic mechanisms 1- 3 . However, the initial establishment of infection in the first few days after mucosal exposure, prior to viral dissemination and massive replication, may be more vulnerable to immune control 4 . Here, we report that SIV vaccines that include rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) vectors 5 establish indefinitely persistent, high frequency, SIV-specific effector-memory T cell (T EM) responses at potential sites of SIV replication in rhesus macaques (RM) and stringently control highly pathogenic SIVmac239 infection early after mucosal challenge. Thirteen of 24 RM receiving either RhCMV vectors alone or RhCMV vectors followed by adenovirus 5 (Ad5) vectors (vs. 0 of 9 DNA/Ad5-vaccinated RM) manifested early complete control of SIV (undetectable plasma virus), and in 12/13 of these RM, we observed long-term (≥1 year) protection characterized by: 1) occasional blips of plasma viremia that ultimately waned; 2) predominantly undetectable cell-associated viral load in blood and lymph node mononuclear cells; 3) no depletion of effector site CD4+ memory T cells; 4) no induction or boosting of SIVenv-specific antibodies (Abs); and 5) induction and then loss of T cell responses to an SIV protein (vif) not included in the RhCMV vectors. Protection correlated with the magnitude of the peak SIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in the vaccine phase, and occurred without anamnestic T cell responses. Remarkably, long-term RhCMV vector-associated SIV control was insensitive to either CD8+ or CD4+ lymphocyte depletion, and at necropsy, cell-associated SIV was only occasionally measurable at the limit of detection with ultrasensitive assays, observations suggesting the possibility of eventual viral clearance. Thus, persistent vectors such as CMV and their associated T EM responses might significantly contribute to an efficacious HIV/AIDS vaccine.