Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) plays pivotal roles in mucosal immune responses. Efficient delivery of antigens to MALT is a critical issue for the development of mucosal vaccines. Although claudin-4 is preferentially expressed in MALT in the gut, a claudin-4-targeting approach for mucosal vaccination has never been developed. In the present study, we found that claudin-4 is expressed in nasal MALT, and we prepared a fusion protein of ovalbumin (OVA) as a model antigen with a claudin-4-binder, the C-terminal fragment of Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (C-CPE) (OVA-C-CPE). Nasal immunization with OVA-C-CPE, but not a mixture of OVA and C-CPE, induced the production of OVA-specific serum IgG and nasal, vaginal and fecal IgA. Deletion of the claudin-4-binding region in OVA-C-CPE attenuated the induction of the immune responses. OVA-C-CPE immunization activated both Th1 and Th2 responses, and nasal immunization with OVA-C-CPE showed anti-tumor activity in mice inoculated with OVA-expressing thymoma cells. These results indicate that the claudin-4-targeting may be a potent strategy for nasal vaccination.
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