An Adjuvant for the Induction of Potent, Protective Humoral Responses to an H5N1 Influenza Virus Vaccine With Antigen-Sparing Effect in Mice

J Virol. 2010 Sep;84(17):8639-49. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00596-10. Epub 2010 Jun 10.


Intramuscular administration of inactivated influenza virus vaccine is the main vaccine platform used for the prevention of seasonal influenza virus infection. In clinical trials, inactivated H5N1 vaccines have been shown to be safe and capable of eliciting immune correlates of protection. However, the H5N1 vaccines are poorly immunogenic compared to seasonal influenza virus vaccines. Needle-free vaccination would be more efficient and economical in a pandemic, and the development of an effective and safe mucosal adjuvant will be an important milestone. A stabilized chemical analog of double-stranded RNA, PIKA, was previously reported to be a potent mucosal adjuvant in a murine model. While PIKA stimulates dendritic cells in vitro, little was known about its receptor and adjuvanting mechanism in vivo. In this study, we demonstrated that the immunostimulatory effect of PIKA resulted in an increased number of mature antigen-presenting cells, with the induction of proinflammatory cytokines at the inoculation site. In addition, coadministration of PIKA with a poorly immunogenic H5N1 subunit vaccine led to antigen sparing and quantitative and qualitative improvements of the immune responses over those achieved with an unadjuvanted vaccine in mice. The adjuvanted vaccine provided protection against lethal challenge with homologous and heterologous H5N1 wild-type viruses. Mice lacking functional TLR3 showed diminished cytokine production with PIKA stimulation, diminished antibody responses, and reduced protective efficacy against wild-type virus challenge following vaccination. These data suggest that TLR3 is important for the optimal performance of PIKA as an adjuvant. With its good safety profile and antigen-sparing effect, PIKA could be an attractive adjuvant for use in future pandemics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage*
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / immunology*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / immunology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • RNA, Double-Stranded