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Infect Immun. 2004 May;72(5):2827-36.

Clostridium difficile toxin A carboxyl-terminus peptide lacking ADP-ribosyltransferase activity acts as a mucosal adjuvant.

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Department of Histology, Microbiology and Medical Biotechnologies, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.


The receptor binding domains of the most potent mucosal adjuvants, bacterial toxins and plant lectins, are organized in repeat units to recognize specific sugar residues. The lectin-like structure of the C-terminal region of Clostridium difficile toxin A prompted us to investigate the mucosal adjuvant properties of a nontoxigenic peptide corresponding to amino acids 2394 to 2706 (TxA(C314)). We compared TxA(C314) adjuvant activity to those of cholera toxin (CT) and Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin subunit B (EtxB) coadministered orally or nasotracheally with poor peptide antigens (keyhole limpet hemocyanin [KLH] and hen egg lysozyme [HEL]). Levels of anti-KLH-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgA as well as that of mucosal IgA were significantly higher in animals immunized orally with TxA(C314) plus KLH than with KLH alone, CT plus KLH, or EtxB plus KLH. Following intranasal immunization with TxA(C314) plus HEL, levels of serum- and mucosa-specific antibodies were comparable to those induced by coadministering HEL with CT or EtxB. The TxA(C314) adjuvant effect following oral, but not intranasal, immunization was dose dependent. The analysis of the subclasses of anti-KLH-specific IgG isotypes and the cytokines released from splenocytes of immunized mice challenged in vitro with KLH indicates the induction of a mixed Th1/Th2-type immune response, with prevalence of the Th1 branch. We conclude that TxA(C314) enhances immune responses against mucosa-coadministered foreign antigens and represents a promising mucosal adjuvant, especially because its ability to stimulate mixed Th1/Th2 responses with a strong a Th1 component is extremely worthwhile against intracellular pathogens.

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