Systems integration of innate and adaptive immunity

Vaccine. 2015 Sep 29;33(40):5241-8. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.05.098. Epub 2015 Jun 21.


The pathogens causing AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis have proven too complex to be overcome by classical approaches to vaccination. The complexities of human immunology and pathogen-induced modulation of the immune system mandate new approaches to vaccine discovery and design. A new field, systems vaccinology, weds holistic analysis of innate and adaptive immunity within a quantitative framework to enable rational design of new vaccines that elicit tailored protective immune responses. A key step in the approach is to discover relationships between the earliest innate inflammatory responses to vaccination and the subsequent vaccine-induced adaptive immune responses and efficacy. Analysis of these responses in clinical studies is complicated by the inaccessibility of relevant tissue compartments (such as the lymph node), necessitating reliance upon peripheral blood responses as surrogates. Blood transcriptomes, although indirect to vaccine mechanisms, have proven very informative in systems vaccinology studies. The approach is most powerful when innate and adaptive immune responses are integrated with vaccine efficacy, which is possible for malaria with the advent of a robust human challenge model. This is more difficult for AIDS and tuberculosis, given that human challenge models are lacking and efficacy observed in clinical trials has been low or highly variable. This challenge can be met by appropriate clinical trial design for partially efficacious vaccines and by analysis of natural infection cohorts. Ultimately, systems vaccinology is an iterative approach in which mechanistic hypotheses-derived from analysis of clinical studies-are evaluated in model systems, and then used to guide the development of new vaccine strategies. In this review, we will illustrate the above facets of the systems vaccinology approach with case studies.

Keywords: Bioinformatics; Computational biology; Immunology; Innate immunity; Systems biology; Vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Systems Biology / methods*
  • Systems Integration
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines / immunology*


  • Vaccines