γ-Herpesviruses establish latent infections of lymphocytes and drive their proliferation, causing cancers and motivating a search for vaccines. Effective vaccination against murid herpesvirus-4 (MuHV-4)-driven lymphoproliferation by latency-impaired mutant viruses suggests that lytic access to the latency reservoir is a viable target for control. However, the vaccines retained the immunogenic MuHV-4 M2 latency gene. Here, a strong reduction in challenge virus load was maintained when the challenge virus lacked the main latency-associated CD8+ T-cell epitope of M2, or when the vaccine virus lacked M2 entirely. This protection was maintained also when the vaccine virus lacked both episome maintenance and the genomic region encompassing M1, M2, M3, M4 and ORF4. Therefore, protection did not require immunity to known MuHV-4 latency genes. As the remaining vaccine virus genes have clear homologs in human γ-herpesviruses, this approach of deleting viral latency genes could also be applied to them, to generate safe and effective vaccines against human disease.
- CD8 T cell