Nonstructural Protein 2 (nsP2) of Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) Enhances Protective Immunity Mediated by a CHIKV Envelope Protein Expressing DNA Vaccine

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Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an important emerging mosquito-borne alphavirus, indigenous to tropical Africa and Asia. It can cause epidemic fever and acute illness characterized by fever and arthralgias. The epidemic cycle of this infection is similar to dengue and urban yellow fever viral infections. The generation of an efficient vaccine against CHIKV is necessary to prevent and/or control the disease manifestations of the infection. In this report, we studied immune response against a CHIKV-envelope DNA vaccine (pEnv) and the role of the CHIKV nonstructural gene 2 (nsP2) as an adjuvant for the induction of protective immune responses in a relevant mouse challenge model. When injected with the CHIKV pEnv alone, 70% of the immunized mice survived CHIKV challenge, whereas when co-injected with pEnv+pnsP2, 90% of the mice survived viral challenge. Mice also exhibited a delayed onset signs of illness, and a marked decrease in morbidity, suggesting a nsP2 mediated adjuvant effect. Co-injection of the pnsP2 adjuvant with pEnv also qualitatively and quantitatively increased antigen specific neutralizing antibody responses compared to vaccination with pEnv alone. In sum, these novel data imply that the addition of nsP2 to the pEnv vaccine enhances anti-CHIKV-Env immune responses and maybe useful to include in future CHIKV clinical vaccination strategies.

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Viral Immunology, v. 26, issue 1, p. 75-83