Recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus-based west Nile vaccine elicits strong humoral and cellular immune responses and protects mice against lethal challenge with the virulent west Nile virus strain LSU-AR01

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Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) has been extensively utilized as a viral vector system for the induction of protective immune responses against a variety of pathogens. We constructed recombinant VSVs specifying either the Indiana or Chandipura virus G glycoprotein and expressing the West Nile virus (WNV) envelope (E) glycoprotein. Mice were intranasally vaccinated using a prime (Indiana)-boost (Chandipura) immunization approach and challenged with the virulent WNV-LSU-AR01. Ninety-percent (9 of 10) of the vaccinated mice survived as compared to 10% of the mock-vaccinated mice after WNV lethal challenge. Histopathological examination of brain tissues revealed neuronal necrosis in mock-vaccinated mice but not in vaccinated mice, and vaccinated, but not mock-vaccinated mice developed a strong neutralizing antibody response against WNV. Extensive immunological analysis using polychromatic flow cytometry staining revealed that vaccinated, but not mock-vaccinated mice developed robust cellular immune responses as evidenced by up-regulation of CD4(+) CD154(+) IFNgamma(+) T cells in vaccinated, but not mock-vaccinated mice. Similarly, vaccinated mice developed robust E-glycoprotein-specific CD8(+) T cell immune responses as evidenced by the presence of a high percentage of CD8(+) CD62L(low) IFNgamma(+) cells. In addition, a sizeable population of CD8(+) CD69(+) cells was detected indicating E-specific activation of mature T cells and CD4(+) CD25(+) CD127(low) T regulatory (T reg) cells were down-regulated. These results suggest that VSV-vectored vaccines administered intranasally can efficiently induce protective humoral and cellular immune responses against WNV infections.

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