Messenger RNA-based vaccines with dual activity induce balanced TLR-7 dependent adaptive immune responses and provide antitumor activity

J Immunother. 2011 Jan;34(1):1-15. doi: 10.1097/CJI.0b013e3181f7dbe8.


Direct vaccination with messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules encoding tumor-associated antigens is a novel and promising approach in cancer immunotherapy. The main advantage of using mRNA for vaccination is that the same molecule not only provides an antigen source for adaptive immunity, but can simultaneously bind to pattern recognition receptors, thus stimulating innate immunity. However, achieving both features remains challenging, as the complexation of mRNA required for immune-stimulating activity may inhibit its translatability. In this study, we present a new and more effective vaccine design: a two-component mRNA-based tumor vaccine that supports both: antigen expression and immune stimulation, mediated by Toll like receptor 7 (TLR7). The two-component mRNA vaccines, containing free and protamine-complexed mRNA, induce balanced adaptive immune responses providing humoral as well as T cell mediated immunity. This balanced immune response is based on the induction of antigen-specific CD4(+) T helper cells and cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells. Once activated, these CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells secrete a wide set of cytokines, which drive a TH1 response. Immunization with the two-component vaccines induces sustained memory responses, mediated by antigen-specific memory T cells. Moreover, treatment of mice with the two-component mRNA vaccine mediates a strong antitumor response against OVA-expressing tumor cells, not only in a prophylactic but also in a therapeutic setting. In conclusion, two-component mRNA vaccines with self-adjuvanting activity induce balanced adaptive immune responses and mediate sustained antitumor activity.

Trial registration: NCT00831467 NCT00906243 NCT00923312.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / genetics
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Immunotherapy
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy*
  • Protamines / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / genetics
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • Protamines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vaccines, Synthetic

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