Matrix-M™ adjuvant induces local recruitment, activation and maturation of central immune cells in absence of antigen

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41451. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041451. Epub 2012 Jul 23.


Saponin-based adjuvants are widely used to enhance humoral and cellular immune responses towards vaccine antigens, although it is not yet completely known how they mediate their stimulatory effects. The aim of this study was to elucidate the mechanism of action of adjuvant Matrix-M™ without antigen and Alum was used as reference adjuvant. Adjuvant Matrix-M™ is comprised of 40 nm nanoparticles composed of Quillaja saponins, cholesterol and phospholipid. BALB/c mice were subcutaneously injected once with, 3, 12 or 30 µg of Matrix-M™, resulting in recruitment of leukocytes to draining lymph nodes (dLNs) and spleen 48 h post treatment. Flow cytometry analysis identified CD11b(+) Gr-1(high) granulocytes as the cell population increasing most in dLNs and spleen. Additionally, dendritic cells, F4/80(int) cells, T-, B- and NK-cells were recruited to dLNs and in spleen the number of F4/80(int) cells, and to some extent, B cells and dendritic cells, increased. Elevated levels of early activation marker CD69 were detected on T-, B- and NK-cells, CD11b(+) Gr-1(high) cells, F4/80(int) cells and dendritic cells in dLNs. In spleen CD69 was mainly up-regulated on NK cells. B cells and dendritic cells in dLNs and spleen showed an increased expression of the co-stimulatory molecule CD86 and dendritic cells in dLNs expressed elevated levels of MHC class II. The high-dose (30 µg) of Matrix-M™ induced detectable serum levels of IL-6 and MIP-1β 4 h post administration, most likely representing spillover of locally produced cytokines. A lesser increase of IL-6 in serum after administration of 12 µg Matrix-M™ was also observed. In conclusion, early immunostimulatory properties were demonstrated by Matrix-M™ alone, as therapeutic doses resulted in a local transient immune response with recruitment and activation of central immune cells to dLNs. These effects may play a role in enhancing uptake and presentation of vaccine antigens to elicit a competent immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Chemokine CCL4 / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Granulocytes / immunology
  • Granulocytes / metabolism
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Kinetics
  • Lymph Nodes / drug effects
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Receptors, Chemokine / metabolism
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Vaccines


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • CD11b Antigen
  • Chemokine CCL4
  • Gr-1 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Chemokine
  • Vaccines