Vaccination and other antigen-specific immunomodulatory strategies in celiac disease

Dig Dis. 2015;33(2):282-9. doi: 10.1159/000369511. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


Background: Celiac disease (CD) results from an alteration in the oral tolerance to dietary gluten. The response to gluten is normally tightly regulated and involves the secretion of TGF-β and IL-10 from different subtypes of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Interestingly, in addition to proinflammatory cytokines, the inflamed CD mucosa also contains high levels of T cell-derived IL-10 compared with treated CD patients or normal donors. Furthermore, most studies describe an increase in the number of Foxp3+ Tregs in the small intestinal mucosa in CD patients compared to controls. This paradoxical condition suggests that regulatory mechanisms might operate to counterbalance the abnormal gliadin-triggered immune activation in untreated mucosa. Indeed, addition of exogenous IL-10 to mucosal cultures from treated CD patients can suppress gliadin-induced T cell activation. Considering the central role of adaptive immunity in CD, the development of strategies to stimulate these mechanisms is a primary goal of efforts to restore gluten tolerance. Key Messages: Different immunomodulatory strategies have been explored. NexVax2, a desensitizing vaccine that uses three dominant gluten peptides administered subcutaneously to induce a tolerogenic response in CD patients, is under development. Alternatively, the potential of substituted, cyclic or dimeric peptide analogues as blockers to prevent HLA from binding to the immunodominant gliadin epitopes has been demonstrated in vitro. In line with these results, we recently found that modified (transamidated) gliadins influenced the immune response in intestinal biopsy samples from CD patients with overt disease by drastically reducing the production of IFN-γ. Notably, in a mouse model, transamidated gliadins reverted the phenotype of the gliadin-inducible immune response from an inflammatory phenotype to an anti-inflammatory phenotype.

Conclusions: Various approaches are currently under investigation to recover gluten tolerance based on the use of both modified and native antigen molecules. More specific studies are now required to test the efficacy of such strategies for preventing CD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Glutens / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Vaccination*


  • Antigens
  • Glutens