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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 3;106(9):3330-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0813309106. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Combined NKT cell activation and influenza virus vaccination boosts memory CTL generation and protective immunity.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne 3010, Australia.


Current influenza A virus vaccines do not generate significant immunity against serologically distinct influenza A virus subtypes and would thus be ineffective in the face of a pandemic caused by a novel variant emerging from, say, a wildlife reservoir. One possible solution would be to modify these vaccines so that they prime cross-reactive CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) cell-mediated immunity directed at conserved viral epitopes. A further strategy is to use novel adjuvants, such as the immunomodulatory glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer). We show here that giving alpha-GalCer with an inactivated influenza A virus has the paradoxical effect of diminishing acute CTL immunity via natural killer T (NKT) cell-dependent expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), an important mediator of immune suppression, while at the same time promoting the survival of long-lived memory CTL populations capable of boosting protection against heterologous influenza A virus challenge. This enhancement of memory was likely due to the alpha-GalCer-induced upregulation of prosurvival genes, such as bcl-2, and points to the potential of alpha-GalCer as an adjuvant for promoting optimal, vaccine-induced CD8(+) T cell memory.

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