Effective subunit vaccines require the incorporation of adjuvants that stimulate cells of the innate immune system to generate protective adaptive immune responses. Pattern recognition receptor agonists are a growing class of potential adjuvants that can shape the character of the immune response to subunit vaccines by directing the polarization of CD4 T cell differentiation to various functional subsets. In the current study, we applied a high-throughput in vitro screen to assess murine CD4 T cell polarization by a panel of pattern recognition receptor agonists. This identified lipopeptides with TLR2 agonist activity as exceptional Th1-polarizing adjuvants. In vivo, we demonstrated that i.v. administration of TLR2 agonists with Ag in mice replicated the findings from in vitro screening by promoting strong Th1 polarization. In contrast, TLR2 agonists inhibited priming of Th1 responses when administered cutaneously in mice. This route-specific suppression was associated with infiltrating CCR2 + cells in the skin-draining lymph nodes and was not uniquely dependent on any of the well characterized subsets of dendritic cells known to reside in the skin. We further demonstrated that priming of CD4 T cells to generate Th1 effectors following immunization with the Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) strain, a lipoprotein-rich bacterium recognized by TLR2, was dependent on the immunization route, with significantly greater Th1 responses with i.v. compared with intradermal administration of BCG. A more complete understanding of route-dependent TLR2 responses may be critical for informed design of novel subunit vaccines and for improvement of BCG and other vaccines based on live-attenuated organisms. The Journ Al of Immunology, 2018, 201: 3604-3616.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grants 1R01AI093649 (to S.A.P.) and 2P01AI063537 (to W.R.J., S.A.P., and J.C.). J.J.J. received support from NIH Training Grant T32 AI07506. C.T.J. received support from NIH Training Grant T32 GM007491. Core resources for flow cytometry and analytical imaging used in this study were supported by Albert Einstein Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA013330 from the NIH.