Dendritic cells as a conduit to improve HIV vaccines

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Many potential HIV vaccine strategies are being explored in both animal model and human settings. The success of any vaccine relies on relevant antigenic determinants being presented to the immune system for the activation of broad and long-lasting immunity. Effective immunity against HIV infection will likely require both the cellular and humoral arms of the immune system, where HIV-specific killer cells eradicate infected targets and neutralizing antibody responses contribute by preventing the initial infection of host cells. As the most potent antigen presenting cell of the immune system, the dendritic cell (DC) orchestrates the activation of adaptive immune responses as well as contributing to the early innate responses to a pathogen, which may also aid in the initial control of infection. It follows therefore, that the efficiency of a vaccine antigen would be greatly enhanced if targeted to the appropriate DCs to ensure optimal presentation to and subsequently activation of the immune system. This review will discuss (i) the current status of DC biology, covering distinct DC subsets and stages of activation and how these influence the types of immune responses that are induced, (ii) how DCs can be exploited to improve the efficacy of HIV vaccine strategies currently under investigation, (iii) what has been learned from in vivo model systems using DCs, and (iv) future considerations to advance HIV vaccinology.