Towards a Coronavirus-Based HIV Multigene Vaccine
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection represents one of the major health threats in the developing world. The costly treatment of infected individuals with multiple highly efficient anti-HIV drugs is only affordable in industrialized countries. Thus, an efficient vaccination strategy is required to prevent the further spread of the infection. The molecular biology of coronaviruses and particular features of the human coronavirus 229E (HCoV 229E) indicate that HCoV 229E-based vaccine vectors can become a new class of highly efficient vaccines. First, the receptor of HCoV 229E, human aminopeptidase N (hAPN or CD13) is expressed mainly on human dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages indicating that targeting of HCoV 229E-based vectors to professional antigen presenting cells can be achieved by receptor-mediated transduction. Second, HCoV 229E structural genes can be replaced by multiple transcriptional units encoding various antigens. These virus-like particles (VLPs) containing HCoV 229E-based vector RNA have the ability to transduce human DCs and to mediate heterologous gene expression in these cells. Finally, coronavirus infections are associated with mainly respiratory and enteric diseases, and natural transmission of coronaviruses occurs via mucosal surfaces. In humans, HCoV 229E causes common cold by infecting the upper respiratory tract. HCoV 229E infections are mainly encountered in children and re-infection occurs frequently in adults. It is thus most likely that pre-existing immunity against HCoV 229E will not significantly impact on the vaccination efficiency if HCoV 229E-based vectors are used in humans.