Lipid motif of a bacterial antigen mediates immune responses via TLR2 signaling

PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019781. Epub 2011 May 17.


The cross-talk between the innate and the adaptive immune system is facilitated by the initial interaction of antigen with dendritic cells. As DCs express a large array of TLRs, evidence has accumulated that engagement of these molecules contributes to the activation of adaptive immunity. We have evaluated the immunostimulatory role of the highly-conserved outer membrane lipoprotein P6 from non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) to determine whether the presence of the lipid motif plays a critical role on its immunogenicity. We undertook a systematic analysis of the role that the lipid motif plays in the activation of DCs and the subsequent stimulation of antigen-specific T and B cells. To facilitate our studies, recombinant P6 protein that lacked the lipid motif was generated. Mice immunized with non-lipidated rP6 were unable to elicit high titers of anti-P6 Ig. Expression of the lipid motif on P6 was also required for proliferation and cytokine secretion by antigen-specific T cells. Upregulation of T cell costimulatory molecules was abrogated in DCs exposed to non-lipidated rP6 and in TLR2(-/-) DCs exposed to native P6, thereby resulting in diminished adaptive immune responses. Absence of either the lipid motif on the antigen or TLR2 expression resulted in diminished cytokine production from stimulated DCs. Collectively, our data suggest that the lipid motif of the lipoprotein antigen is essential for triggering TLR2 signaling and effective stimulation of APCs. Our studies establish the pivotal role of a bacterial lipid motif on activating both innate and adaptive immune responses to an otherwise poorly immunogenic protein antigen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antibody Formation / immunology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • CD40 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • Female
  • Immunity / immunology*
  • Immunization
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes / immunology
  • Lipids / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Titrimetry
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / immunology*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • CD40 Antigens
  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes
  • Lipids
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tlr2 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2