Although intramuscular (i.m.) injection of DNA encoding glycoprotein D (gD) of bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1) induces immune responses in cattle, this route of delivery is inefficient. Here we assessed three parameters that may enhance the efficacy of a gD DNA vaccine in cattle. First, the immune response generated by i.m. injected plasmid expressing a secreted form of gD (tgD) was determined and found to be very similar in magnitude to the response induced by gD-expressing plasmid. Secondly, gD- and tgD-expressing plasmids were administered by intradermal (i.d.) immunization, which resulted in a superior immune response to the secreted form, but no improvement in the response to the membrane-associated form. However, the form of gD used for immunization did not influence the immunoglobulin subtype, the ratio of antigen-specific IgG1 to IgG2 being approximately 4:1. Finally, the effect of promoter strength was assessed by replacing the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) promoter, which was used in the original experiments, with the human cytomegalovirus immediate early promoter and first intron A (HCMV/IA). Although upon transfection in vitro the HCMV/IA promoter appeared to be stronger than the RSV promoter, there was only a 2-fold higher antibody response in vivo upon i.d. injection of cattle. Protection against virus challenge was obtained in the calves immunized i.d. with tgD-encoding plasmid, as shown by a significant reduction in weight loss, virus excretion, temperature response and clinical disease. No significant protection was observed in the animals vaccinated i.d. with the gD-expressing plasmid, which correlates with the lower level of immunity pre-challenge.


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