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BACKGROUND: Viral vectors, including adenovirus (Ad) and modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA), have gained increasing attention as vaccine platforms in recent years due to their capacity to express antigens from a wide array of pathogens, their rapid induction of humoral and cellular protective immune responses, and their relatively low production costs. In particular, the chimpanzee Ad vector, ChAdOx1, has taken centre stage as a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate. However, despite mounting data, both clinical and pre-clinical, demonstrating effective induction of adaptive immune responses, the innate immune signals that precede the protective responses that make these vectors attractive vaccine platforms remain poorly understood. RESULTS: In this study, a mouse immunisation model was used to evaluate whole blood gene expression changes 24 h after either a single dose or heterologous prime-boost regimen of an Ad and/or MVA vaccine. We demonstrate through comparative analysis of Ad vectors encoding different antigens that a transgene product-specific gene signature can be discerned from the vector-induced transcriptional response. Expression of genes involved in TLR2 stimulation and γδ T cell and natural killer cell activation were induced after a single dose of Ad, while MVA led to greater expression of type I interferon genes. The order of prime-boost combinations was found to influence the magnitude of the gene expression changes, with MVA/Ad eliciting greater transcriptional perturbation than Ad/MVA. Contrasting the two regimens revealed significant enrichment of epigenetic regulation pathways and augmented expression of MHC class I and II molecules associated with MVA/Ad. CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate that the order in which vaccines from heterologous prime-boost regimens are administered leads to distinct transcriptional responses and may shape the immune response induced by such combinations. The characterisation of early vaccine-induce responses strengthens our understanding of viral vector vaccine mechanisms of action ahead of their characterisation in human clinical trials and are a valuable resource to inform the pre-clinical design of appropriate vaccine constructs for emerging infectious diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Genomics

Publication Date





Adenoviridae, Animals, COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, Epigenesis, Genetic, Genetic Vectors, Humans, Immunization, Mice, SARS-CoV-2, Viral Vaccines