Three different deletion mutants of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that vary in their levels of attenuation were tested for the ability to protect against mucosal challenge with pathogenic SIV. Four female rhesus monkeys were vaccinated by intravenous inoculation with SIVmac239Δ3, four with SIVmac239Δ3X, and four with SIVmac239Δ4. These three vaccine strains exhibit increasing levels of attenuation: Δ3 < Δ3X <Δ4. The vaccinated monkeys were challenged by vaginal exposure to uncloned, pathogenic SIVmac251 at 61 weeks after the time of vaccination. On the basis of viral RNA loads in plasma, cell-associated virus loads in peripheral blood, and CD4 cell counts, strong protective effects were observed in all three groups of vaccinated monkeys. However, the degree of protection correlated inversely with the level of attenuation; the least-attenuated strain, SIVmac239Δ3, gave the greatest protection. One monkey in the Δ3X group and two in the Δ4 group clearly became superinfected by the challenge virus, but these animals had levels of SIV RNA in plasma that were considerably lower than those of naive animals that were challenged in parallel. Protection against vaginal challenge appears easier to achieve than protection against intravenous challenge, since four other SIVmac239Δ4-vaccinated monkeys showed no protection when challenged intravenously with a much lower inoculum of the same challenge virus stock. Protection against vaginal challenge in the Δ4- vaccinated group occurred in the absence of detectable serum neutralizing activities and appeared to be associated with the development of an early SIV-specific cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte response. Our results demonstrate that mucosal protection can be achieved by systemic immunization with the highly attenuated SIVmac239Δ4 more than 1 year prior to the time of challenge.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science