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J Clin Invest. 2002 Oct;110(8):1175-84.

Noncoding RNA danger motifs bridge innate and adaptive immunity and are potent adjuvants for vaccination.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Astral Inc. of Alliance Pharmaceutical Corporation, 3040 Science Park Road, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


The adaptive immune response is triggered by recognition of T and B cell epitopes and is influenced by "danger" motifs that act via innate immune receptors. This study shows that motifs associated with noncoding RNA are essential features in the immune response reminiscent of viral infection, mediating rapid induction of proinflammatory chemokine expression, recruitment and activation of antigen-presenting cells, modulation of regulatory cytokines, subsequent differentiation of Th1 cells, isotype switching, and stimulation of cross-priming. The heterogeneity of RNA-associated motifs results in differential binding to cellular receptors, and specifically impacts the immune profile. Naturally occurring double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) triggered activation of dendritic cells and enhancement of specific immunity, similar to selected synthetic dsRNA motifs. Based on the ability of specific RNA motifs to block tolerance induction and effectively organize the immune defense during viral infection, we conclude that such RNA species are potent danger motifs. We also demonstrate the feasibility of using selected RNA motifs as adjuvants in the context of novel aerosol carriers for optimizing the immune response to subunit vaccines. In conclusion, RNA-associated motifs produced during viral infection bridge the early response with the late adaptive phase, regulating the activation and differentiation of antigen-specific B and T cells, in addition to a short-term impact on innate immunity.

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