Th1 versus Th2 T cell polarization by whole-cell and acellular childhood pertussis vaccines persists upon re-immunization in adolescence and adulthood

Cell Immunol. Jun-Jul 2016;304-305:35-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 14.


The recent increase in cases of whooping cough among teenagers in the US suggests that the acellular Bordetella pertussis vaccine (aP) that became standard in the mid 1990s might be relatively less effective than the whole-bacteria formulation (wP) previously used since the 1950s. To understand this effect, we compared antibody and T cell responses to a booster immunization in subjects who received either the wP or aP vaccine as their initial priming dose in childhood. Antibody responses in wP- and aP-primed donors were similar. Magnitude of T cell responses was higher in aP-primed individuals. Epitope mapping revealed the T cell immunodominance patterns were similar for both vaccines. Further comparison of the ratios of IFNγ and IL-5 revealed that IFNγ strongly dominates the T cell response in wP-primed donors, while IL-5 is dominant in aP primed individuals. Surprisingly, this differential pattern is maintained after booster vaccination, at times from eighteen years to several decades after the original aP/wP priming. These findings suggest that childhood aP versus wP vaccination induces functionally different T cell responses to pertussis that become fixed and are unchanged even upon boosting.

Keywords: Epitope; Pertussis; Re-immunization; T cell polarization; Vaccine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antibody Formation
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology*
  • Bordetella pertussis / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Secondary / methods
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-5 / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / microbiology
  • Th1-Th2 Balance*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / microbiology
  • Vaccines, Acellular / immunology*
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough / immunology
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Interleukin-5
  • Vaccines, Acellular
  • Interferon-gamma