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Protection against Borreliella burgdorferi infection mediated by a synthetically engineered DNA vaccine
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in North America. The etiological agent is the spirochete Borreliella burgdorferi, transmitted to mammalian hosts by the Ixodes tick. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of cases of Lyme disease. Currently, there is no vaccine on the market for human use. We describe the development of a novel synthetically engineered DNA vaccine, pLD1 targeting the outer-surface protein A (OspA) of Borreliella burgdorferi. Immunization of C3 H/HeN mice with pLD1 elicits robust humoral and cellular immune responses that confer complete protection against a live Borreliella burgdorferi bacterial challenge. We also assessed intradermal (ID) delivery of pLD1 in Hartley guinea pigs, demonstrating the induction of robust and durable humoral immunity that lasts at least 1 year. We provide evidence of the potency of pLD1 by showing that antibodies targeting the OspA epitopes which have been associated with protection are prominently raised in the immunized guinea pigs. The described study provides the basis for the advancement of pDL1 as a potential vaccine for Lyme disease control.
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Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection of Human Lung Fibroblasts Induces a Hyaluronan-Enriched Extracellular Matrix That Binds Mast Cells and Enhances Expression of Mast Cell Proteases
Human lung fibroblasts (HLFs) treated with the viral mimetic polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) form an extracellular matrix (ECM) enriched in hyaluronan (HA) that avidly binds monocytes and lymphocytes. Mast cells are important innate immune cells in both asthma and acute respiratory infections including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); however, the effect of RSV on HA dependent mast cell adhesion and/or function is unknown. To determine if RSV infection of HLFs leads to the formation of a HA-enriched ECM that binds and enhances mast cell activity primary HLFs were infected with RSV for 48 h prior to leukocyte binding studies using a fluorescently labeled human mast cell line (LUVA). Parallel HLFs were harvested for characterization of HA production by ELISA and size exclusion chromatography. In separate experiments, HLFs were infected as above for 48 h prior to adding LUVA cells to HLF wells. Co-cultures were incubated for 48 h at which point media and cell pellets were collected for analysis. The role of the hyaladherin tumor necrosis factor-stimulated gene 6 (TSG-6) was also assessed using siRNA knockdown. RSV infection of primary HLFs for 48 h enhanced HA-dependent LUVA binding assessed by quantitative fluorescent microscopy. This coincided with increased HLF HA synthase (HAS) 2 and HAS3 expression and decreased hyaluronidase (HYAL) 2 expression leading to increased HA accumulation in the HLF cell layer and the presence of larger HA fragments. Separately, LUVAs co-cultured with RSV-infected HLFs for 48 h displayed enhanced production of the mast cell proteases, chymase, and tryptase. Pre-treatment with the HA inhibitor 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU) and neutralizing antibodies to CD44 (HA receptor) decreased mast cell protease expression in co-cultured LUVAs implicating a direct role for HA. TSG-6 expression was increased over the 48-h infection. Inhibition of HLF TSG-6 expression by siRNA knockdown led to decreased LUVA binding suggesting an important role for this hyaladherin for LUVA adhesion in the setting of RSV infection. In summary, RSV infection of HLFs contributes to inflammation via HA-dependent mechanisms that enhance mast cell binding as well as mast cell protease expression via direct interactions with the ECM.
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The coronavirus family member, SARS-CoV-2 has been identified as the causal agent for the pandemic viral pneumonia disease, COVID-19. At this time, no vaccine is available to control further dissemination of the disease. We have previously engineered a synthetic DNA vaccine targeting the MERS coronavirus Spike (S) protein, the major surface antigen of coronaviruses, which is currently in clinical study. Here we build on this prior experience to generate a synthetic DNA-based vaccine candidate targeting SARS-CoV-2 S protein. The engineered construct, INO-4800, results in robust expression of the S protein in vitro. Following immunization of mice and guinea pigs with INO-4800 we measure antigen-specific T cell responses, functional antibodies which neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 infection and block Spike protein binding to the ACE2 receptor, and biodistribution of SARS-CoV-2 targeting antibodies to the lungs. This preliminary dataset identifies INO-4800 as a potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate, supporting further translational study.
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