The importance of a balanced TH
2 humoral immune response against the HIV-1 envelope protein (Env) for antibody-mediated HIV-1 control is increasingly recognized. However, there is no defined vaccination strategy to raise it. Since immune checkpoints are involved in the induction of adoptive immunity and their inhibitors (monoclonal antibodies) are licensed for cancer therapy, we investigated the effect of checkpoint blockade after HIV-1 genetic vaccination on enhancement and modulation of antiviral antibody responses. By intraperitoneal administration of checkpoint antibodies in mice we observed an induction of anti-drug antibodies which may interfere with immunomodulation by checkpoint inhibitors. Therefore, we blocked immune checkpoints locally by co-electroporation of DNA vaccines encoding the active soluble ectodomains of programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) or its ligand (PD-L1), respectively. Plasmid-encoded immune checkpoints did not elicit a detectable antibody response, suggesting no interference with their immunomodulatory effects. Co-electroporation of a HIV-1 DNA vaccine formulation with soluble PD-L1 ectodomain increased HIV-1 Env-specific TH
1 CD4 T cell and IgG2a antibody responses. The overall antibody response was hereby shifted towards a more TH
2 balanced subtype pattern. These findings indicate that co-electroporation of soluble checkpoint ectodomains together with DNA-based vaccines has modulatory effects on vaccine-induced immune responses that could improve vaccine efficacies.
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