Effective Delivery of Antigen-Encapsulin Nanoparticle Fusions to Dendritic Cells Leads to Antigen-Specific Cytotoxic T Cell Activation and Tumor Rejection

ACS Nano. 2016 Aug 23;10(8):7339-50. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.5b08084. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


In cancer immunotherapy, robust and efficient activation of cytotoxic CD8(+) T cell immune responses is a promising, but challenging task. Dendritic cells (DCs) are well-known professional antigen presenting cells that initiate and regulate antigen-specific cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells that kill their target cells directly as well as secrete IFN-γ, a cytokine critical in tumor rejection. Here, we employed recently established protein cage nanoparticles, encapsulin (Encap), as antigenic peptide nanocarriers by genetically incorporating the OT-1 peptide of ovalbumin (OVA) protein to the three different positions of the Encap subunit. With them, we evaluated their efficacy in activating DC-mediated antigen-specific T cell cytotoxicity and consequent melanoma tumor rejection in vivo. DCs efficiently engulfed Encap and its variants (OT-1-Encaps), which carry antigenic peptides at different positions, and properly processed them within phagosomes. Delivered OT-1 peptides were effectively presented by DCs to naïve CD8(+) T cells successfully, resulting in the proliferation of antigen-specific cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells. OT-1-Encap vaccinations in B16-OVA melanoma tumor bearing mice effectively activated OT-1 peptide specific cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells before or even after tumor generation, resulting in significant suppression of tumor growth in prophylactic as well as therapeutic treatments. A large number of cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells that actively produce both intracellular and secretory IFN-γ were observed in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes collected from B16-OVA tumor masses originally vaccinated with OT-1-Encap-C upon tumor challenges. The approaches we describe herein may provide opportunities to develop epitope-dependent vaccination systems that stimulate and/or modulate efficient and epitope-specific cytotoxic T cell immune responses in nonpathogenic diseases.

Keywords: antigen delivery; cytotoxic T cells; dendritic cells; encapsulin; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Dendritic Cells*
  • Drug Carriers*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Ovalbumin
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic*


  • Drug Carriers
  • Ovalbumin