Intradermal vaccination by gene gun efficiently delivers DNA vaccines into DCs of the skin, resulting in the activation and priming of antigen-specific T cells in vivo. DCs, however, have a limited life span, hindering their long-term ability to prime antigen-specific T cells. We reason that a strategy that prolongs the survival of DNA-transduced DCs will enhance priming of antigen-specific T cells and DNA vaccine potency. Here we show that codelivery of DNA encoding inhibitors of apoptosis (BCL-xL, BCL-2, XIAP, dominant negative caspase-9, or dominant negative caspase-8) with DNA encoding model antigens prolongs the survival of transduced DCs. More importantly, vaccinated mice exhibited significant enhancement in antigen-specific CD8+ T cell immune responses, resulting in a potent antitumor effect against antigen-expressing tumors. Among these antiapoptotic factors, BCL-xL demonstrated the greatest enhancement in antigen-specific immune responses and anti-tumor effects. Thus, coadministration of DNA vaccines with DNA encoding antiapoptotic proteins represents an innovative approach to enhance DNA vaccine potency.
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