Biosynthesis and replication, from A to Z Four nucleobases. adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T), are usually thought to be invariable in DNA. In bacterial viruses, however, each of the DNA bases have variations that help them to escape degradation by bacterial restriction enzymes. In the genome of cyanophage S-2L, A is completely replaced by diaminopurine (Z), which forms three hydrogen bonds with T and thus creates non–Watson-Crick base pairing in the DNA of this virus (see the Perspective by Grome and Isaacs). Zhou et al. and Sleiman et al. determined the biochemical pathway that produces Z, which revealed more Z genomes in viruses hosted in bacteria distributed widely in the environment and phylogeny. Pezo et al. identified a DNA polymerase that incorporates Z into DNA while rejecting A. These findings enrich our understanding of biodiversity and expand the genetic palette for synthetic biology. Science, this issue p. 512, 516, 520; see also p. 460 DNA modifications vary in form and function but generally do not alter Watson-Crick base pairing. Diaminopurine (Z) is an exception because it completely replaces adenine and forms three hydrogen bonds with thymine in cyanophage S-2L genomic DNA. However, the biosynthesis, prevalence, and importance of Z genomes remain unexplored. Here, we report a multienzyme system that supports Z-genome synthesis. We identified dozens of globally widespread phages harboring such enzymes, and we further verified the Z genome in one of these phages, Acinetobacter phage SH-Ab 15497, by using liquid chromatography with ultraviolet and mass spectrometry. The Z genome endows phages with evolutionary advantages for evading the attack of host restriction enzymes, and the characterization of its biosynthetic pathway enables Z-DNA production on a large scale for a diverse range of applications. Characterization of the Z-genome biosynthetic pathway reveals its wide distribution among bacteriophages. Characterization of the Z-genome biosynthetic pathway reveals its wide distribution among bacteriophages.
Recombinant influenza A viral (IAV) vectors are potential to stimulate systemic and mucosal immunity, but the packaging capacity is limited and only one or a few epitopes can be carried. Here, we report the generation of a replication-competent IAV vector that carries a full-length HIV-1 p24 gene linked to the 5’-terminal coding region of the neuraminidase segment via a protease cleavage sequence (IAV-p24). IAV-p24 was successfully rescued and stably propagated, and P24 protein was efficiently expressed in infected mammalian cells. In BALB/c mice, IAV-p24 showed attenuated pathogenicity than the parental A/PR/8/34 (H1N1) virus did. An intranasal inoculation with IAV-p24 elicited moderate HIV-specific cell-mediated immune (CMI) responses in the airway and vaginal tracts and in the spleen, and an intranasal boost with a replication-incompetent adenovirus type 2 vector expressing HIV-1 gag gene (Ad2-gag) greatly improved these responses. Importantly, compared to an Ad2-gag prime plus IAV-p24 boost regimen, the IAV-p24 prime plus Ad2-gag boost regimen had a greater efficacy in eliciting HIV-specific CMI responses. P24-specific CD8 + T cells and antibodies were robustly provoked both systemically and in mucosal sites and showed long-term durability, revealing that IAV-p24 may be used as a mucosa-targeted priming vaccine. Our results illustrate that IAV-p24 is able to prime systemic and mucosal immunity against HIV-1 and warrants further evaluation in nonhuman primates. IMPORTANCE An effective HIV-1 vaccine remains elusive despite nearly 40 years of research. CD8 + T cells and protective antibodies may both be desirable for preventing HIV-1 infection in susceptible mucosal sites. Recombinant influenza A virus (IAV) vector has the potential to stimulate these immune responses, but the packaging capacity is extremely limited. Here, we describe a replication-competent IAV vector expressing HIV-1 p24 gene (IAV-p24). Unlike most other IAV vectors that carried one or several antigenic epitopes, IAV-p24 stably expressed the full-length P24 protein which contains multiple epitopes and is highly conserved among all known HIV-1 sequences. Compared to the parental A/PR/8/34 (H1N1) virus, IAV-p24 showed an attenuated pathogenicity in BALB/c mice. When combined with an adenovirus vector expressing HIV-1 gag gene, IAV-p24 was able to prime P24-specific systemic and mucosal immune responses. IAV-p24 as an alternative priming vaccine against HIV-1 warrants further evaluation in nonhuman primates.