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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29412. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029412. Epub 2011 Dec 19.

The combination of early and rapid type I IFN, IL-1α, and IL-1β production are essential mediators of RNA-like adjuvant driven CD4+ Th1 responses.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Disease and Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America.


There is a growing need for novel vaccine adjuvants that can provide safe and potent T-helper type 1 (Th1) activity. RNA-like immune response modifiers (IRMs) are candidate T-cell adjuvants that skew acquired immune responses towards a Th1 phenotype. We set out to delineate the essential signaling pathways by which the RNA-like IRMs, resiquimod (R-848) and polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C), augment CD4+ T-helper 1 (Th1) responses. Highly purified murine conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) and conventional CD4+ T-cells were co-cultured in allogeneic and MHC congenic mixed leukocyte reactions. The activation of CD4+ Th1 cells was examined utilizing cells from mice deficient in specific RNA-sensing pattern recognition receptors and signaling mediators. R-848 and poly I:C stimulation of Type I interferon production and signaling in cDCs was essential but not sufficient for driving CD4+ Th1 responses. The early and rapid production of IL-1α and IL-1β was equally critical for the optimal activation of Th1 CD4+ T-cells. R-848 activation of Toll-like receptor 7/MyD88-dependent signaling in cDCs led to a rapid upregulation of pro-IL-1α and pro-IL-1β production compared to poly I:C activation of MyD88-independent signaling pathways. The in vitro data show that CD4+ T-cell adjuvant activity of RNA-like IRMs is mediated by a critical combination of early and rapid Type I interferon, IL-1α and IL-1β production. These results provide important insights into the key signaling pathways responsible for RNA-like IRM CD4+ Th1 activation. A better understanding of the critical signaling pathways by which RNA-like IRMs stimulate CD4+ Th1 responses is relevant to the rational design of improved vaccine adjuvants.

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