Vaccine Activation of the Nutrient Sensor GCN2 in Dendritic Cells Enhances Antigen Presentation

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Science  17 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6168, pp. 313-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.1246829

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The Secret Life of a Vaccine

Antigen-specific CD8÷ T cells play a central role in the adaptive immune response to viral infections and to cancer. Ravindran et al. (p. 313, published online 5 December) studied the successful yellow fever virus vaccine YF-17D to gain insight into its mechanism of action. The vaccine activated the nutrient deprivation sensor, GCN2 kinase, in dendritic cells. In transgenic mouse models, GCN2 activation promoted autophagy and antigen cross-presentation, enhancing the virus-specific CD8÷ T cell response. The findings suggest an important role for nutrient availability and autophagy in vaccine efficacy, which could aid more successful vaccine development.


The yellow fever vaccine YF-17D is one of the most successful vaccines ever developed in humans. Despite its efficacy and widespread use in more than 600 million people, the mechanisms by which it stimulates protective immunity remain poorly understood. Recent studies using systems biology approaches in humans have revealed that YF-17D–induced early expression of general control nonderepressible 2 kinase (GCN2) in the blood strongly correlates with the magnitude of the later CD8+ T cell response. We demonstrate a key role for virus-induced GCN2 activation in programming dendritic cells to initiate autophagy and enhanced antigen presentation to both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. These results reveal an unappreciated link between virus-induced integrated stress response in dendritic cells and the adaptive immune response.

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