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In vivo delivery of a multiepitope peptide and Nef protein using novel cell-penetrating peptides for development of HIV-1 vaccine candidate

  • Davoodi, Saba1
  • Bolhassani, Azam2
  • Namazi, Fatemeh1
  • 1 Islamic Azad University,
  • 2 Pasteur Institute of Iran,
Published Article
Biotechnology Letters
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s10529-020-03060-3
PMID: 33386500
PMCID: PMC7775797
PubMed Central


Objectives A potent HIV vaccine should overcome some limitations such as polymorphism of human HLA, the diversity of HIV-1 virus, and the lack of an effective delivery system. In this study, a DNA construct encoding Nef60–84, Nef126–144, Vpr34–47, Vpr60–75, Gp16030–53, Gp160308–323, and P248–151 epitopes was designed using bioinformatics tools. The pcDNA3.1- nef-vpr-gp160-p24 and pcDNA3.1- nef constructs were prepared in large scale as endotoxin-free form. Moreover, the recombinant Nef-Vpr-Gp160-p24 polypeptide and Nef protein were generated in E. coli . These constructs were delivered using cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) in vivo, and immune responses were assessed for different modalities in BALB/c mice. Results The recombinant DNA constructs were confirmed as the ~ 867 bp and ~ 648 bp bands related to nef-vpr-gp160-p24 and nef genes on agarose gel. Moreover, the purified Nef-Vpr-Gp160-p24 polypeptide and Nef protein showed the ~ 32 kDa and ~ 30 kDa bands on SDS-PAGE, respectively. The results of immune responses indicated that the heterologous prime/boost regimens using both Nef-Vpr-Gp160-P24 and Nef antigens induced significantly the secretion of IgG2a, IgG2b, IFN-γ and Granzyme B compared to other groups. The levels of Granzyme B in mice immunized with Nef antigen were higher than those immunized with Nef-Vpr-Gp160-P24 antigen. The CPPs showed the same potency with Montanide adjuvant for eliciting immune responses. Conclusions The heterologous prime/boost regimens for both antigens could significantly direct immune responses toward Th1 and CTL activity compared to other regimens. Comparing the efficiency of Nef-Vpr-Gp160-P24 and Nef constructs, the Nef-Vpr-Gp160-P24 constructs delivered by CPPs showed promising results as an HIV vaccine candidate.

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