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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 24;109(4):1080-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112648109. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Enhancing humoral responses to a malaria antigen with nanoparticle vaccines that expand Tfh cells and promote germinal center induction.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


For subunit vaccines, adjuvants play a key role in shaping immunological memory. Nanoparticle (NP) delivery systems for antigens and/or molecular danger signals are promising adjuvants capable of promoting both cellular and humoral immune responses, but in most cases the mechanisms of action of these materials are poorly understood. Here, we studied the immune response elicited by NPs composed of multilamellar "stapled" lipid vesicles carrying a recombinant Plasmodium vivax circumsporozoite antigen, VMP001, both entrapped in the aqueous core and anchored to the lipid bilayer surfaces. Immunization with these particles and monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA), a US Food and Drug Administration-approved immunostimulatory agonist for Toll-like receptor-4, promoted high-titer, high-avidity antibody responses against VMP001, lasting more than 1 y in mice at 10-fold lower doses than conventional adjuvants. Compared to soluble VMP001 mixed with MPLA, VMP001-NPs promoted broader humoral responses, targeting multiple epitopes of the protein and a more balanced Th1/Th2 cytokine profile from antigen-specific T cells. To begin to understand the underlying mechanisms, we examined components of the B-cell response and found that NPs promoted robust germinal center (GC) formation at low doses of antigen where no GC induction occurred with soluble protein immunization, and that GCs nucleated near depots of NPs accumulating in the draining lymph nodes over time. In parallel, NP vaccination enhanced the expansion of antigen-specific follicular helper T cells (T(fh)), compared to vaccinations with soluble VMP001 or alum. Thus, NP vaccines may be a promising strategy to enhance the durability, breadth, and potency of humoral immunity by enhancing key elements of the B-cell response.

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