Delayed but effective induction of mucosal memory immune responses against genital HSV-2 in the absence of secondary lymphoid organs
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To examine whether local immunization in the absence of secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs) could establish effective antiviral memory responses in the female genital tract, we examined immunity in the vaginal tracts of LTα-/- mice, LTα-/- SPL (splenectomized), and control C57BL/6 (WT) mice. All three groups of mice were immunized intravaginally (IVAG) with attenuated thymidine kinase-negative (TK(-)) Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and challenged 4-6 weeks later with wild-type (WT) HSV-2. Both groups of LTα-/- mice exhibited delayed viral clearance and prolonged genital pathology after immunization. Following IVAG WT HSV-2 challenge, LTα-/- and LTα-/- SPL mice had significantly lower levels of HSV-2-specific IgG and IgA in the vaginal secretions. Although the frequency of B and T cells in the vaginal mucosa was comparable or higher in both groups of LTα-/- mice, lower frequency of HSV-2-specific interferon-γ (IFNγ)-producing CD3+ T cells was seen after immunization and after challenge, compared with WT group. Despite this, immunized mice in all three groups showed complete sterile protection against IVAG WT HSV-2 challenge. These results show that even in the absence of SLOs, IVAG immunization generates effector memory immune responses at genital mucosa that can provide antiviral protection against subsequent viral exposures. This will inform new strategies to design mucosal vaccines against sexually transmitted infections.
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