Effective vaccines for human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) remain a significant challenge for these infectious diseases. Given that the innate immune response is key to controlling the scale and nature of developing adaptive immune responses, targeting natural killer (NK) cells that can promote a T-helper type 1 (Th1)-type immune response through the production of interferon-γ (IFNγ) remains an untapped strategic target for improved vaccination approaches. Here, we investigate metabolic and functional responses of NK cells to simian adenovirus prime and MVA boost vaccination in a cohort of healthy volunteers receiving a dual HCV-HIV-1 vaccine. Early and late timepoints demonstrated metabolic changes that contributed to the sustained proliferation of all NK cells. However, a strong impact of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) on some metabolic and functional responses in NK cells was observed in HCMV seropositive participants. These changes were not restricted to molecularly defined adaptive NK cells; indeed, canonical NK cells that produced most IFNγ in response to vaccination were equally impacted in individuals with latent HCMV. In summary, NK cells undergo metabolic changes in response to vaccination, and understanding these in the context of HCMV is an important step towards rational vaccine design against a range of human viral pathogens.
School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.