Vaccine adjuvants: role and mechanisms of action in vaccine immunogenicity

Drug Discov Today. 2003 Oct 15;8(20):934-43. doi: 10.1016/s1359-6446(03)02864-2.


Inactivated vaccines require adjuvants to stimulate an immune response. The choice of adjuvant or immune enhancer determines whether the immune response is effective, ineffective or damaging. Accordingly, there is a need for new adjuvants that stimulate the appropriate immunity, for example, T cell immunity for intracellular pathogens and cancer vaccines. In several adjuvants, the identification of chemical groups that interact with specific cell toll-like receptors (innate immunity) or receptors for co-stimulatory ligands (adaptive immunity), has enabled the establishment of structure-function relationships that are useful in the design of new adjuvants. Because of the crucial immunomodulating role of adjuvants, sub-unit vaccine development will remain dependent on new adjuvants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / chemistry
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / classification
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Active / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical
  • Vaccines / chemistry
  • Vaccines / immunology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Vaccines