Vaccine targeting SIVmac251 protease cleavage sites protects macaques against vaginal infection

Hongzhao Li, Robert W. Omange, Binhua Liang, Nikki Toledo, Yan Hai, Lewis R. Liu, Dane Schalk, Jose Crecente-Campo, Tamara G. Dacoba, Andrew B. Lambe, So Yon Lim, Lin Li, Mohammad Abul Kashem, Yanmin Wan, Jorge F. Correia-Pinto, Michael S. Seaman, Xiao Qing Liu, Robert F. Balshaw, Qingsheng Li, Nancy Schultz-DarkenMaria J. Alonso, Francis A. Plummer, James B. Whitney, Ma Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


After over 3 decades of research, an effective anti-HIV vaccine remains elusive. The recently halted HVTN702 clinical trial not only further stresses the challenge to develop an effective HIV vaccine but also emphasizes that unconventional and novel vaccine strategies are urgently needed. Here, we report that a vaccine focusing the immune response on the sequences surrounding the 12 viral protease cleavage sites (PCSs) provided greater than 80% protection to Mauritian cynomolgus macaques against repeated intravaginal SIVmac251 challenges. The PCS-specific T cell responses correlated with vaccine efficacy. The PCS vaccine did not induce immune activation or inflammation known to be associated with increased susceptibility to HIV infection. Machine learning analyses revealed that the immune microenvironment generated by the PCS vaccine was predictive of vaccine efficacy. Our study demonstrates, for the first time to our knowledge, that a vaccine which targets only viral maturation, but lacks full-length Env and Gag immunogens, can prevent intravaginal infection in a stringent macaque/SIV challenge model. Targeting HIV maturation thus offers a potentially novel approach to developing an effective HIV vaccine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6429-6442
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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