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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2005 Mar 1;43(3):373-84.

Intestinal immunity of Escherichia coli NISSLE 1917: a safe carrier for therapeutic molecules.

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Arbeitsgruppe Mukosale Immunität, Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung, Mascheroder Weg 1, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


The development of novel approaches that allow accurate targeting of therapeutics to the intestinal mucosa is a major task in the research on intestinal inflammation. For the first time, a live genetically modified bacterial strain has been approved by Dutch authorities as a therapeutic agent for experimental therapy of intestinal bowel disease (IBD) in humans. Genetically modified probiotics can very well be used as carriers for localized antigen delivery into the intestine. Therapeutic safety, however, of such a carrier organism, is crucial, especially when a specific probiotic strain has to be used under diseased conditions. In this study, we tested the potential of Escherichia coli NISSLE 1917 to serve as a safe carrier for targeted delivery of recombinant proteins to the intestinal mucosa. In a well-defined and very sensitive immunological system, we demonstrate that intestinal recombinant E. coli NISSLE 1917 has no effect on migration, clonal expansion and activation status of specific CD4+ T cells, neither in healthy mice nor in animals with acute colitis. Furthermore, recombinant E. coli NISSLE 1917 has no effect on the induction or breakdown of peripheral T-cell tolerance in an autoimmune environment. The excellent colonization properties of E. coli NISSLE 1917 render this strain an ideal candidate as carrier organism for gut-focused in situ synthesis of therapeutic molecules.

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