Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) remains a leading cause of economic loss in pig farming worldwide. Existing commercial vaccines, all based on modified live or inactivated PRRSV, fail to provide effective immunity against the highly diverse circulating strains of both PRRSV-1 and PRRSV-2. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop more effective and broadly active PRRSV vaccines. In the absence of neutralizing antibodies, T cells are thought to play a central role in controlling PRRSV infection. Herpesvirus-based vectors are novel vaccine platforms capable of inducing high levels of T cells against encoded heterologous antigens. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the immunogenicity and efficacy of an attenuated herpesvirus-based vector (bovine herpesvirus-4; BoHV-4) expressing a fusion protein comprising two well-characterized PRRSV-1 T-cell antigens (M and NSP5). Prime-boost immunization of pigs with BoHV-4 expressing the M and NSP5 fusion protein (vector designated BoHV-4-M-NSP5) induced strong IFN-γ responses, as assessed by ELISpot assays of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) stimulated with a pool of peptides representing PRRSV-1 M and NSP5. The responses were closely mirrored by spontaneous IFN-γ release from unstimulated cells, albeit at lower levels. A lower frequency of M and NSP5 specific IFN-γ responding cells was induced following a single dose of BoHV-4-M-NSP5 vector. Restimulation using M and NSP5 peptides from PRRSV-2 demonstrated a high level of cross-reactivity. Vaccination with BoHV-4-M-NSP5 did not affect viral loads in either the blood or lungs following challenge with the two heterologous PRRSV-1 strains. However, the BoHV-4-M-NSP5 prime-boost vaccination showed a marked trend toward reduced lung pathology following PRRSV-1 challenge. The limited effect of T cells on PRRSV-1 viral load was further examined by analyzing local and circulating T-cell responses using intracellular cytokine staining and proliferation assays. The results from this study suggest that vaccine-primed T-cell responses may have helped in the control of PRRSV-1 associated tissue damage, but had a minimal, if any, effect on controlling PRRSV-1 viral loads. Together, these results indicate that future efforts to develop effective PRRSV vaccines should focus on achieving a balanced T-cell and antibody response.



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Frontiers in Immunology



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School of Biomedical Sciences