Background: Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) expresses a viral ortholog (CMVIL-10) of human cellular interleukin-10 (cIL-10). Despite only ~26% amino acid sequence identity, CMVIL-10 exhibits comparable immunosuppressive activity with cIL-10, attenuates HCMV antiviral immune responses, and contributes to lifelong persistence within infected hosts. The low sequence identity between CMVIL-10 and cIL-10 suggests vaccination with CMVIL-10 may generate antibodies that specifically neutralize CMVIL-10 biological activity, but not the cellular cytokine, cIL-10. However, immunization with functional CMVIL-10 might be detrimental to the host because of its immunosuppressive properties. Methods and Findings: Structural biology was used to engineer biologically inactive mutants of CMVIL-10 that would, upon vaccination, elicit a potent immune response to the wild-type viral cytokine. To test the designed proteins, the mutations were incorporated into the rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) ortholog of CMVIL-10 (RhCMVIL-10) and used to vaccinate RhCMV-infected rhesus macaques. Immunization with the inactive RhCMVIL-10 mutants stimulated antibodies against wild-type RhCMVIL-10 that neutralized its biological activity, but did not cross-react with rhesus cellular IL-10. Conclusion: This study demonstrates an immunization strategy to neutralize RhCMVIL-10 biological activity using non-functional RhCMVIL-10 antigens. The results provide the methodology for targeting CMVIL-10 in vaccine, and therapeutic strategies, to nullify HCMV's ability to (1) skew innate and adaptive immunity, (2) disseminate from the site of primary mucosal infection, and (3) establish a lifelong persistent infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)