Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program




First Thesis Advisor

Shan Lu, MD, PhD


AIDS Vaccines, Immunologic Adjuvants, Vaccination, DNA Vaccines, Innate Immunity


Dissertations, UMMS; AIDS Vaccines; Adjuvants, Immunologic; Vaccination; Vaccines, DNA; Immunity, Innate


In recent years, heterologous prime-boost vaccination constructs have emerged as a promising strategy to generate broad and protective immunity against a variety of pathogens. The utility of DNA vaccination in priming the immune system, in particular, has improved the immunogenicity of vaccines against difficult pathogens such as HIV-1. In addition, many vaccine formulations include an adjuvant to augment immune responses. However, the mechanisms and profiles of many adjuvants remain largely unknown, particularly in the context of such combination immunization approaches.

My thesis research studied the effects of several adjuvants, QS-21, aluminum hydroxide, MPL, and ISCOMATRIX™ adjuvant in the context of a previously described pentavalent HIV-1 Env DNA prime-protein boost vaccine, DP6-001. In a murine model, we quantified HIV antigen-specific humoral and T cell responses, as well as pro-inflammatory serum cytokine and chemokines, both shortly after immunization and at the termination of studies. Our data indicates that each candidate adjuvant generates a unique pattern of biomarkers as well as improved immunogenicity in the context of the DP6-001 DNA prime-protein boost vaccine.

Additionally, we examined the impact of several innate signaling pathways on the adaptive immunity raised by DP6-001 and adjuvants, as well as on the unique serum cytokine profiles. These studies provide valuable information in selection of an adjuvant for inclusion in future prime-boost strategies, with the goal of enhancing immunogenicity while minimizing reactogenicity. Furthermore, these studies provided insight about the utility of different current adjuvants in a prime-boost formulation, and the unique immune environment induced by DNA priming.



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