Intramuscular immunization with a monogenic plasmid DNA tuberculosis vaccine: Enhanced immunogenicity by electroporation and co-expression of GM-CSF transgene
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Plasmid DNA vaccine has been widely explored for tuberculosis immunization but there is a need to develop the ways to improve its immunogenicity. In this study, we have constructed a plasmid DNA vaccine coding for Ag85A alone or for both Ag85A and GM-CSF and investigated the immune adjuvant effects of electroporation and GM-CSF co-expression, alone or in combination, on CD4 and CD8 T cell IFN-gamma responses, CTL activities and immune protection from pulmonary Mycobacterium tuberculosis challenge in a Balb/c mouse model. We have found that use of electroporation allows a single intramuscular (i.m.) DNA injection to be as effective as repeated i.m. DNA injections in activation of both Ag85A-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells. Co-expression of immune-enhancing cytokine GM-CSF by the same plasmid DNA TB vaccine could further enhance T cell activation including CTL activities on top of electroporation. With regard to immune protection from pulmonary M. tb challenge, use of electroporation also allows a single i.m. DNA injection to be as effective as repeated i.m. DNA injections. Co-expression of GM-CSF transgene also moderately enhances immune protection and such effect is more evident for systemic protection. However, GM-CSF expression has little added effect on immune protection by electroporation-aided immunization protocols. Our findings thus will help with the development of future DNA TB immunization strategies.