Annual repeat influenza vaccination raises concerns about protective efficacy against mismatched viruses. We investigated the impact of heterologous prime-boost vaccination on inducing cross protection by designing recombinant influenza viruses with chimeric hemagglutinin (HA) carrying M2 extracellular domains (M2e-HA). Heterologous prime-boost vaccination of C57BL/6 mice with M2e-HA chimeric virus more effectively induced M2e and HA stalk specific IgG antibodies correlating with cross protection than homologous prime-boost vaccination. Induction of M2e and HA stalk specific IgG antibodies was compromised in 1-year old mice, indicating significant aging effects on priming subdominant M2e and HA stalk IgG antibody responses. This study demonstrates that a heterologous prime-boost strategy with recombinant influenza virus expressing extra M2e epitopes provides more effective cross protection than homologous vaccination.
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