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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1994;50(5 Suppl):42-54.

Strategies for the induction of immune responses at mucosal surfaces making use of cholera toxin B subunit as immunogen, carrier, and adjuvant.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Goteborg, Sweden.


The concept of a common mucosal immune system, through which specific antigen-activated lymphocytes from the gut can disseminate immunity both along the intestinal tract and to various other mucosal and glandular tissues, has generated much current interest in the possibility of developing oral vaccines, not only for enteric infections but also for infections in the respiratory and urogenital tracts. However, to date it has proven difficult in practice to stimulate strong mucosal IgA immune responses by either parenteral or oral-mucosal administration of most antigens, and experience with soluble protein antigens has, on the whole, been disappointing. A notable exception in this regard is cholera toxin (CT) and in humans more than in other species, its nontoxic B subunit pentamer moiety (CTB). Based on this, CTB has become an important component in recently developed oral vaccines against cholera as well as against diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli producing CT-like heat-labile enterotoxin(s). Since the strong immunogenicity of CT and CTB can, to a large extent, be explained by their ability to bind to receptors on the intestinal mucosal surface, there has recently been much interest in approaches using CTB as an oral delivery carrier system for other vaccine-relevant antigens, and much progress has been made in preparing immunogenic hybrid proteins by coupling various protein or peptide antigens chemically or genetically to CTB. Indeed, in several systems, oral administration of such hybrid antigens has been found to markedly potentiate both intestinal and extraintestinal IgA immune responses against the CTB-coupled antigens and also to elicit substantial circulating antibody responses. Besides the mucosal immunopotentiating effect of either CT or CTB owing to their similar capacity as oral antigen-delivery vehicles, CT, but in most systems tested not CTB, also has strong adjuvant properties for stimulating mucosal IgA immune responses to admixed (not coupled) unrelated antigens after oral immunization. This adjuvant activity appears to be closely linked to the ADP-ribosylating action of CT (and specifically of its A subunit) leading to enhanced cyclic AMP formation in the affected cell, and efforts to eliminate the enterotoxic activity without losing adjuvanticity have so far not met with success.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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