Compared to naked DNA immunisation, entrapment of plasmid-based DNA vaccines into liposomes by the dehydration-rehydration method has shown to enhance both humoural and cell-mediated immune responses to encoded antigens administered by a variety of routes. In this paper, we have investigated the application of liposome-entrapped DNA and their cationic lipid composition on such potency after subcutaneous immunisation. Plasmid pI.18Sfi/NP containing the nucleoprotein (NP) gene of A/Sichuan/2/87 (H3N2) influenza virus in the pI.18 expression vector was incorporated by the dehydration-rehydration method into liposomes composed of 16 μmol egg phosphatidylcholine (PC), 8 μmoles dioleoyl phosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) or cholesterol (Chol) and either the cationic lipid 1,2-diodeoyl-3-(trimethylammonium) propane (DOTAP) or cholesteryl 3-N-(dimethyl amino ethyl) carbamate (DC-Chol). This method, entailing mixing of small unilamellar vesicles (SUV) with DNA, followed by dehydration and rehydration, yielded incorporation values of 90-94% of the DNA used. Mixing or rehydration of preformed cationic liposomes with 100 μg plasmid DNA also led to similarly high complexation values (92-94%). In an attempt to establish differences in the nature of DNA association with these various liposome preparations their physico-chemical characteristics were investigated. Studies on vesicle size, zeta potential and gel electrophoresis in the presence of the anion sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) indicate that, under the conditions employed, formulation of liposomal DNA by the dehydration-rehydration generated submicron size liposomes incorporating most of the DNA in a manner that prevents DNA displacement through anion competition. The bilayer composition of these dehydration-rehydration vesicles (DRV(DNA)) can also further influence these physicochemical characteristics with the presence of DOPE within the liposome bilayer resulting in a reduced vesicle zeta potential. Subcutaneous liposome-mediated DNA immunisation employing two DRV(DNA) formulations as well as naked DNA revealed that humoural responses (immunoglobulin total IgG, and subclasses IgG1 and 1gG2a) engendered by the plasmid encoded NP were substantially higher after dosing twice, 28 days apart with 10 μg liposome-entrapped DNA compared to naked DNA. At all time points measured, mice immunised with naked DNA showed no greater immune response compared to the control, non-immunised group. In contrast, as early as day 49, responses were significantly higher in mice injected with DNA entrapped in DRV liposomes containing DOTAP compared to the control group and mice immunised with naked DNA. By day 56, all total IgG responses from mice immunised with both DRV formulations were significantly higher. Comparison between the DRV formulations revealed no significant difference in immune responses elicited except at day 114, where the humoural responses of the group injected with liposomal formulation containing DC-Chol dropped to significantly lower levels that those measured in mice which received the DOTAP formulation. Similar results were found when the IgG1 and IgG2a subclass responses were determined. These results suggest that, not only can DNA be effectively entrapped within liposomes using the DRV method but that such DRV liposomes containing DNA may be a useful system for subcutaneous delivery of DNA vaccines. © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- DNA vaccines
- physico-chemical characterisation
- subcutaneous vaccination