Recombinant herpesvirus vectors: Durable immune responses and durable protection against simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239 acquisition

Isabelle M. Castro, Michael J. Ricciardi, Lucas Gonzalez-Nieto, Eva G. Rakasz, Jeffrey D. Lifson, Ronald C. Desrosiers, David I. Watkins, Mauricio A. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A prophylactic vaccine that confers durable protection against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) would provide a valuable tool to prevent new HIV/ AIDS cases. As herpesviruses establish lifelong infections that remain largely subclinical, the use of persistent herpesvirus vectors to deliver HIV antigens may facilitate the induction of long-term anti-HIV immunity. We previously developed recombinant (r) forms of the gamma-herpesvirus rhesus monkey rhadinovirus (rRRV) expressing a replication-incompetent, near-full-length simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVnfl) genome. We recently showed that 8/16 rhesus macaques (RMs) vaccinated with a rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl regimen were significantly protected against intrarectal (i.r.) challenge with SIVmac239. Here we investigated the longevity of this vaccine-mediated protection. Despite receiving no additional booster immunizations, the protected rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl vaccinees maintained detectable cellular and humoral anti-SIV immune responses for more than 1.5 years after the rRRV boost. To assess if these responses were still protective, the rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl vaccinees were subjected to a second round of marginal-dose i.r. SIVmac239 challenges, with eight SIV-naive RMs serving as concurrent controls. After three SIV exposures, 8/8 control animals became infected, compared to 3/8 vaccinees. This difference in SIV acquisition was statistically significant (P = 0.0035). The three vaccinated monkeys that became infected exhibited significantly lower viral loads than those in unvaccinated controls. Collectively, these data illustrate the ability of rDNA/rRRV-SIVnfl vaccination to provide long-term immunity against stringent mucosal challenges with SIVmac239. Future work is needed to identify the critical components of this vaccine-mediated protection and the extent to which it can tolerate sequence mismatches in the challenge virus. IMPORTANCE We report on the long-term follow-up of a group of rhesus macaques (RMs) that received an AIDS vaccine regimen and were subsequently protected against rectal acquisition of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection. The vaccination regimen employed included a live recombinant herpesvirus vector that establishes persistent infection in RMs. Consistent with the recurrent SIV antigen expression afforded by this herpesvirus vector, vaccinees maintained detectable SIV-specific immune responses for more than 1.5 years after the last vaccination. Importantly, these vaccinated RMs were significantly protected against a second round of rectal SIV exposures performed 1 year after the first SIV challenge phase. These results are relevant for HIV vaccine development because they show the potential of herpesvirus-based vectors to maintain functional antiretroviral immunity without the need for repeated boosting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00330
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Herpesviruses
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Nonhuman primate models
  • Simian immunodeficiency virus
  • Vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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