Astragalus polysaccharides (APS), extracted from the root of Astragalus membranaceus, a traditional Chinese medicinal herb, have extensive pharmacological and strong immunomodulatory effects. In this study, the potential adjuvant effect of APS on humoral and cellular immune responses to hepatitis B subunit vaccine was investigated. Coadministration of APS with recombinant hepatitis B surface antigen significantly increased antigen-specific antibody production, T-cell proliferation and CTL (cytotoxic T lymphocyte) activity. Production of interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-2 (IL-2) and IL-4 in CD4(+) T cells and of IFN-γ in CD8(+) T cells were dramatically increased. Furthermore, expression of the genes PFP, GraB, Fas L and Fas were up-regulated; interestingly, expression of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) and the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Treg cells) were down-regulated. Expression of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) was significantly increased by administration of APS. Together, these results suggest that APS is a potent adjuvant for the hepatitis B subunit vaccine and can enhance both humoral and cellular immune responses via activating the TLR4 signaling pathway and inhibit the expression of TGF-β and frequency of Treg cells.
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.