Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the most common congenital infection worldwide, frequently causing hearing loss and brain damage in afflicted infants. A vaccine to prevent maternal acquisition of HCMV during pregnancy is necessary to reduce the incidence of infant disease. The glycoprotein B (gB) + MF59 adjuvant subunit vaccine platform is the most successful HCMV vaccine tested to date, demonstrating ∼50% efficacy in preventing HCMV acquisition in multiple phase 2 trials. However, the mechanism of vaccine protection remains unknown. Plasma from 33 postpartum women gB/MF59 vaccinees at peak immunogenicity was tested for gB epitope specificity as well as neutralizing and nonneutralizing anti-HCMV effector functions and compared with an HCMV-seropositive cohort. gB/MF59 vaccination elicited IgG responses with gB-binding magnitude and avidity comparable to natural infection. Additionally, IgG subclass distribution was similar with predominant IgG1 and IgG3 responses induced by gB vaccination and HCMV infection. However, vaccine-elicited antibodies exhibited limited neutralization of the autologous virus, negligible neutralization of multiple heterologous strains, and limited binding responses against gB structural motifs targeted by neutralizing antibodies including AD-1, AD-2, and domain I. Vaccinees had high-magnitude IgG responses against AD-3 linear epitopes, demonstrating immunodominance against this nonneutralizing, cytosolic region. Finally, vaccine-elicited IgG robustly bound membrane-associated gB on the surface of transfected or HCMV-infected cells and mediated virion phagocytosis, although were poor mediators of NK cell activation. Altogether, these data suggest that nonneutralizing antibody functions, including virion phagocytosis, likely played a role in the observed 50% vaccine-mediated protection against HCMV acquisition.
HCMV glycoprotein B subunit vaccine efficacy mediated by nonneutralizing antibody effector functions
Nelson, C. S., Huffman, T., Jenks, J. A., Cisneros de la Rosa, E., Xie, G., Vandergrift, N., Pass, R. F., Pollara, J., & Permar, S. R. (2018). HCMV glycoprotein B subunit vaccine efficacy mediated by nonneutralizing antibody effector functions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(24), 6267-6272. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1800177115