Carbopol is a polyanionic carbomer gel used in man for a variety of topical applications and drug delivery purposes. Here we show that subcutaneous administration of carbopol with glycoprotein antigens elicits unusually strong specific adaptive immune responses in mice. Recombinant soluble HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env)-based antigen formulated in carbopol was at least as potent at stimulating Env-specific B and T cell responses as Freund's Complete Adjuvant, and significantly more potent than aluminium salts. The antigen-specific T cell immune response elicited both Th1 and Th2 cytokines including high titers of IFN-gamma, IL-2 and IL-4, and drove a Th1 isotype-switched antibody response. Mice immunized with a low dose of purified influenza HA in carbopol generated high titers of anti-HA antibodies and were protected from lethal challenge and disease with live virus. Similarly, immunization of mice with the melanoma cell line B16F10 formulated in carbopol significantly delayed tumor growth. We propose that carbopol, or related cross-linked polyacrylic acid analogues, may have promise for use as systemic vaccine adjuvants in man.
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