Swine influenza virus (SIV) is an important viral pathogen in pig populations. However, commercial vaccines cannot provide complete protection with induced humoral immunity only, and require frequent updates to fight against current isolates. DNA vaccination is an effective means of eliciting both arms of the immune system, the humoral and cellular immune responses. In this study, DNA vector pcDNA3.1 was inserted with a chimeric intron downstream of the CMV promoter region followed by a Kozak sequence to enhance the expression of gene inserts. The C-terminal of the VP22 gene (VP22c), encoding the tegument protein of bovine herpesvirus-1, was fused separately to the N-terminal of four quadruplicated epitopes: two B-cell epitopes (HA91-108 and M2e), and two T-cell epitopes (NP366-374 and NP380-393), which were conserved, at least among the three SIV subtypes prevailing in pig populations in North America. Linker -KK- was used to space between each copy of the two B-cell epitopes, and -RVKR- was used for the two T-cell epitopes, in order to enhance the presentation of epitopes to the immune system. The expression of epitopes was confirmed in in vitro transfection of 293FT cells, and higher percentages of epitope-positive cells were achieved from the plasmids containing VP22c than those without. After the DNA plasmids were administered to mice intramuscularly in combination or separately, or boosted with recombinant proteins of quadruplicated epitopes fused to VP22c, the vaccine stimulated the desired epitope-specific humoral immunity to the two B-cell epitopes, and cellular immunity to the epitope NP380-393. Our results indicate that plasmids with quadruplicated epitopes fused to the VP22c may be a potential vehicle in developing epitopes as vaccines against SIV.
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