Immunostimulating complexes (ISCOMs) for nasal vaccination

Author(s): Hu KF, Lövgren-Bengtsson K, Morein B


The immunostimulating complex (ISCOM) is documented as a strong adjuvant and delivery system for parenteral immunization. Its effectiveness for mucosal immunization has also been proven with various incorporated antigens. Lövgren et al. were the first to demonstrate the capacity of influenza virus ISCOMs to induce mucosal immune response and protection after one comparatively low nasal dose. Further studies show that similar to Cholera toxin (CT) and Escherichia coli heat-labile toxin (LT), ISCOMs break immunological tolerance and exert strong mucosal adjuvant activity, resulting in secretory IgA and systemic immune responses. Striking is the capacity of ISCOMs to induce CTL response also after nasal administration. In contrast to CT, ISCOMs initiate mucosal as well as systemic immune responses in an IL-12 dependent manner but independently of IL-4. The recombinant B subunit of cholera toxin (rCTB) was incorporated in the same ISCOM particle to explore symbiotic effects. The IgA response to rCTB in lungs was increased 100-fold when rCTB was administered nasally in ISCOMs and more than 10-fold in the remote mucosa of the genital tract. An enhanced IgA response to a passenger antigen OVA was recorded in the remote genital tract. After i.n. administration of the envelope proteins of respiratory syncytial virus in ISCOMs, high serum antibodies were induced, almost at the same levels as those following parenteral immunization and potent IgA responses were also evoked both at the local respiratory mucosa, and in the cases tested at the distant mucosae of the genital and intestinal tracts. Similar results have also been recorded with ISCOMs containing envelope proteins from Herpes simplex virus, Influenza virus and Mycoplasma mycoides. The mucosal targeting property of envelope proteins of RSV was utilized in an HIV-gp120 RSV ISCOM formulation. After nasal administration an enhanced mucosal IgA response to gp120 was observed in the female reproductive tract. In general, antigens derived from envelope viruses or cell membranes incorporated into ISCOMs retain their biological activity and conformation, encompassing the mucosal targeting and virus neutralizing properties.

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