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Journal Article

pH-degradable imidazoquinoline-ligated nanogels for lymph node-focused immune activation

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Nuhn, L., Vanparijs, N., De Beuckelaer, A., Lybaert, L., Verstraete, G., Deswarte, K., et al. (2016). pH-degradable imidazoquinoline-ligated nanogels for lymph node-focused immune activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(29), 8098-8103. doi:10.1073/pnas.1600816113.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-9A76-9
The newest generation of small-molecule vaccine adjuvants aims at triggering specific receptors expressed by dendritic cells, the working horses of our immune system. Unfortunately, owing to their small size, upon administration these molecules rapidly enter systemic circulation and cause systemic inflammation. We report on a nanotechnology-based solution for this issue by covalent ligation of a potent immunostimulatory small molecule to hydrogel nanoparticles. This approach allows for lymph node-restricted immune activation and avoids systemic dissemination. Importantly, relative to soluble immunostimulatory compound, nanoparticle ligation yields increased immune activation in the draining lymph nodes and results in strongly increased antibody titers and T-cell responses against an admixed vaccine antigen.Agonists of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are potent activators of the innate immune system and hold promise as vaccine adjuvant and for anticancer immunotherapy. Unfortunately, in soluble form they readily enter systemic circulation and cause systemic inflammatory toxicity. Here we demonstrate that by covalent ligation of a small-molecule imidazoquinoline-based TLR7/8 agonist to 50-nm-sized degradable polymeric nanogels the potency of the agonist to activate TLR7/8 in in vitro cultured dendritic cells is largely retained. Importantly, imidazoquinoline-ligated nanogels focused the in vivo immune activation on the draining lymph nodes while dramatically reducing systemic inflammation. Mechanistic studies revealed a prevalent passive diffusion of the nanogels to the draining lymph node. Moreover, immunization studies in mice have shown that relative to soluble TLR7/8 agonist, imidazoquinoline-ligated nanogels induce superior antibody and T-cell responses against a tuberculosis antigen. This approach opens possibilities to enhance the therapeutic benefit of small-molecule TLR agonist for a variety of applications.