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This article has been peer reviewed and is published in BMC Genetic Vaccines and Therapy Volume 2, 23 August 2004, 11p. The published version is available at DOI: 10.1186/1479-0556-2-10. Copyright © BioMed Central Ltd.


BACKGROUND: A vaccine that elicits durable, powerful anti-HIV immunity remains an elusive goal. In these studies we tested whether multiple treatments with viral vector-delivered HIV envelope antigen (gp120), with and without IL-15, could help to approach that goal. For this purpose, we used recombinant Tag-deleted SV40-derived vectors (rSV40s), since they do not elicit neutralizing antibody responses, and so can be given multiply without loss of transduction efficiency. METHODS: SV(gp120) carried the coding sequences for HIV-1NL4-3 Env, and SV(mIL-15) carried the cDNA for mouse IL-15. Singly, and in combination, these two vectors were given monthly to BALB/cJ mice. Cytotoxic immunity and cytotoxic memory were tested in direct cytotoxicity assays using unselected effector cells. Antibody vs. gp120 was measured in a binding assay. In both cases, targets were P815 cells that were stably transfected with gp120. RESULTS: Multiple injections of SV(gp120) elicited powerful anti-gp120 cytolytic activity (>70% specific lysis) by unselected spleen cells. Cells from multiply-immunized mice that were rested 1 year after their last injections still showed >60% gp120-specific lysis. Anti-gp120 antibody was first detected after 2 monthly injections of SV(gp120) and remained elevated thereafter. Adding SV(mIL-15) to the immunization regimen dramatically accelerated the development of memory cytolytic responses, with >/= 50% specific lysis seen 1 month after two treatments. IL-15 did not alter the development of antibody responses. CONCLUSIONS: Thus, rSV40s encoding antigens and immunostimulatory cytokines may be useful tools for priming and/or boosting immune responses against HIV.