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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 22;110(4):1464-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1218080110. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Modulating the innate immune response by combinatorial engineering of endotoxin.

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  • 1Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Despite its highly inflammatory nature, LPS is a molecule with remarkable therapeutic potential. Lipid A is a glycolipid that serves as the hydrophobic anchor of LPS and constitutes a potent ligand of the Toll-like receptor (TLR)4/myeloid differentiation factor 2 receptor of the innate immune system. A less toxic mixture of monophosphorylated lipid A species (MPL) recently became the first new Food and Drug Administration-approved adjuvant in over 70 y. Whereas wild-type Escherichia coli LPS provokes strong inflammatory MyD88 (myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88)-mediated TLR4 signaling, MPL preferentially induces less inflammatory TRIF (TIR-domain-containing adaptor-inducing IFN-β)-mediated responses. Here, we developed a system for combinatorial structural diversification of E. coli lipid A, yielding a spectrum of bioactive variants that display distinct TLR4 agonist activities and cytokine induction. Mice immunized with engineered lipid A/antigen emulsions exhibited robust IgG titers, indicating the efficacy of these molecules as adjuvants. This approach demonstrates how combinatorial engineering of lipid A can be exploited to generate a spectrum of immunostimulatory molecules for vaccine and therapeutics development.

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