Targeting haemagglutinin antigen of avian influenza virus to chicken immune cell receptors Dec205 and CD11c induces differential immune-potentiating responses

Improving the immunogenicity and protective efficacy of vaccines is critical to reducing disease impacts. One strategy used to enhance the immunogenicity of vaccines is the selective delivery of protective antigens to the antigen presenting cells (APCs). In this study, we have developed a targeted antigen delivery vaccine (TADV) system by recombinantly fusing the ectodomain of hemagglutinin (HA) antigen of H9N2 influenza A virus to single chain fragment variable (scFv) antibodies specific for the receptors expressed on chicken APCs; Dec205 and CD11c. Vaccination of chickens with TADV containing recombinant H9HA Foldon-Dec205 scFv or H9HA Foldon-CD11c scFv proteins elicited faster (as early as day 6 post primary vaccination) and higher anti-H9HA IgM and IgY, haemagglutination inhibition, and virus neutralisation antibodies compared to the untargeted H9HA protein. Comparatively, CD11c scFv conjugated H9HA protein showed higher immunogenic potency compared to Dec205 scFv conjugated H9HA protein. The higher immune potentiating ability of CD11c scFv was also reflected in ex-vivo chicken splenocyte stimulation assay, whereby H9HA Foldon-CD11c scFv induced higher levels of cytokines (IFNγ, IL6, IL1β, and IL4) compared to H9HA Foldon-Dec205 scFv. Overall, the results conclude that TADV could be a better alternative to the currently available inactivated virus vaccines.

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