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J Immunol. 2010 Jun 15;184(12):7100-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803935. Epub 2010 May 7.

Essential role for TLR9 in prime but not prime-boost plasmid DNA vaccination to activate dendritic cells and protect from lethal viral infection.

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La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


One of the requirements for efficient vaccination against infection is to achieve the best combination of an adequate adjuvant with the antigenic information to deliver. Although plasmid DNA is a promising tool bearing the unique potential to activate humoral and cellular immunity, an actual challenge is to increase plasmid immunogenicity in human vaccination protocols in which efficacy has proven rather limited. Previous work showed that the bacterial DNA backbone of the plasmid has potent adjuvant properties because it contains CpG motifs that are particular activating nucleotidic sequences. Among TLRs, which are key sensors of microbial products, TLR9 can detect CpG motifs and confer activation of APCs, such as dendritic cells. However, whether the immunogenic properties of plasmid DNA involve TLR9 signaling has not been clearly established. In the current study, we demonstrate that TLR9 determines the effectiveness of vaccination against lethal lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection using plasmid DNA in a prime, but not prime-boost, vaccination regimen. Furthermore, we provide evidence that the presence of TLR9 in dendritic cells is necessary for effective and functional priming of virus-specific CD8+ T cells upon plasmid exposure in vitro or single-dose vaccination in vivo. Therefore, at single or low vaccine doses that are often used in human-vaccination protocols, CpG/TLR9 interactions participate in the immunogenicity of plasmid DNA. These results suggest that the TLR9 signaling pathway is involved in the efficacy of plasmid vaccination; therefore, it should remain a focus in the development or amelioration of vaccines to treat infections in humans.

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