The feasibility of using the highly purified native attachment (G) protein in a subunit vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was examined in a murine model with or without the fusion (F) protein of RSV and the adjuvant QS-21. The studies established that QS-21 was more potent than AIOH as an adjuvant for both F and G glycoproteins. Augmented antigen-dependent killer cell activity and complement-assisted serum neutralizing and anti-F and G protein immunoglobulin G2a antibody titers were observed. Immunization with G/QS-21 generated immune responses that were characterized by low levels of antigen-dependent killer cell activity, elevated levels of interleukin-5 (IL-5) and percentages of eosinophils in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids after challenge, and splenic immunocytes that secreted IL-5 but not gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) after in vitro stimulation with purified whole virus antigens. The pulmonary eosinophilia was similar to that induced by a facsimile of a formalin-inactivated vaccine used in previous clinical trials and was prevented by prior in vivo treatment with anti-IL-5 but not with control immunoglobulin G or anti-IFN-gamma neutralizing monoclonal antibodies. Thus the data implied that vaccination with G/QS-21 generated helper T-cell immune responses that were type 2 in nature. Alternatively, the data suggested that the helper T-cell immune responses elicited by F/QS-21 were more type 1 in character. Neither eosinophilia nor elevated levels of IL-5 were observed in the lungs of mice after challenge. Noteworthy levels of antigen-dependent killer cell activity was observed, and splenic immunocytes secreted copious quantities of IFN-gamma. Immunization with a combination vaccine composed of highly purified native F and G proteins plus QS-21 (F+G/QS-21) resulted in augmented complement-assisted serum neutralizing antibody titers compared with vaccination with either F/QS-21 or G/QS-21 alone. However, following vaccination with F+G/QS-21, the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids contained significant increases in IL-5 and percentages of eosinophils after challenge, the spleen cells appeared to secrete less IFN-gamma after in vitro stimulation, and there was no evidence of increased numbers of antigen-dependent killer cell precursors. Taken together, the data imply that native G protein influences the nature of the immune responses elicited by F/QS-21. The results therefore suggest that G, not F, protein has more potential to bias the host for atypical pulmonary inflammatory responses
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