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September 2023

Molecular correlates of vaccine-induced protection against typhoid fever

Zhu H, Chelysheva I, Cross DL, Blackwell L, Jin C, Gibani MM, Jones E, Hill J, Trück J, Kelly DF, Blohmke CJ, Pollard AJ, O'Connor D. Molecular correlates of vaccine-induced protection against typhoid fever.

J Clin Invest. 2023 Aug 15;133(16):e169676. doi: 10.1172/JCI169676.


BACKGROUND. Typhoid fever is caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi and poses a substantial public health burden worldwide. Vaccines have been developed based on the surface Vi-capsular polysaccharide of S. Typhi; these include a plain-polysaccharide-based vaccine, ViPS, and a glycoconjugate vaccine, ViTT. To understand immune responses to these vaccines and their vaccine-induced immunological protection, molecular signatures were analyzed using bioinformatic approaches.

METHODS. Bulk RNA-Seq data were generated from blood samples obtained from adult human volunteers enrolled in a vaccine trial, who were then challenged with S. Typhi in a controlled human infection model (CHIM). These data were used to conduct differential gene expression analyses, gene set and modular analyses, B cell repertoire analyses, and time-course analyses at various post-vaccination and post-challenge time points between participants receiving ViTT, ViPS, or a control meningococcal vaccine.

RESULTS. Transcriptomic responses revealed strong differential molecular signatures between the 2 typhoid vaccines, mostly driven by the upregulation in humoral immune signatures, including selective usage of immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region (IGHV) genes and more polarized clonal expansions. We describe several molecular correlates of protection against S. Typhi infection, including clusters of B cell receptor (BCR) clonotypes associated with protection, with known binders of Vi-polysaccharide among these.

CONCLUSION. The study reports a series of contemporary analyses that reveal the transcriptomic signatures after vaccination and infectious challenge, while identifying molecular correlates of protection that may inform future vaccine design and assessment.