Synthetic Toll-Like Receptor 4 (TLR4) and TLR7 Ligands Work Additively via MyD88 To Induce Protective Antiviral Immunity in Mice

J Virol. 2017 Sep 12;91(19):e01050-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01050-17. Print 2017 Oct 1.


We previously demonstrated that the combination of synthetic small-molecule Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and TLR7 ligands is a potent adjuvant for recombinant influenza virus hemagglutinin, inducing rapid and sustained immunity that is protective against influenza viruses in homologous, heterologous, and heterosubtypic murine challenge models. Combining the TLR4 and TLR7 ligands balances Th1 and Th2-type immune responses for long-lived cellular and neutralizing humoral immunity against the viral hemagglutinin. Here, we demonstrate that the protective response induced in mice by this combined adjuvant is dependent upon TLR4 and TLR7 signaling via myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), indicating that the adjuvants function in vivo via their known receptors, with negligible off-target effects, to induce protective immunity. The combined adjuvant acts via MyD88 in both bone marrow-derived and non-bone marrow-derived radioresistant cells to induce hemagglutinin-specific antibodies and protect mice against influenza virus challenge. The protective efficacy generated by immunization with this adjuvant and recombinant hemagglutinin antigen is transferable with serum from immunized mice to recipient mice in a homologous, but not a heterologous, H1N1 viral challenge model. Depletion of CD4+ cells after an established humoral response in immunized mice does not impair protection from a homologous challenge; however, it does significantly impair recovery from a heterologous challenge virus, highlighting an important role for vaccine-induced CD4+ cells in cross-protective vaccine efficacy. The combination of the two TLR agonists allows for significant dose reductions of each component to achieve a level of protection equivalent to that afforded by either single agent at its full dose.IMPORTANCE Development of novel adjuvants is needed to enhance immunogenicity to provide better protection from seasonal influenza virus infection and improve pandemic preparedness. We show here that several dose combinations of synthetic TLR4 and TLR7 ligands are potent adjuvants for recombinant influenza virus hemagglutinin antigen induction of humoral and cellular immunity against viral challenges. The components of the combined adjuvant work additively to enable both antigen and adjuvant dose sparing while retaining efficacy. Understanding an adjuvant's mechanism of action is a critical component for preclinical safety evaluation, and we demonstrate here that a combined TLR4 and TLR7 adjuvant signals via the appropriate receptors and the MyD88 adaptor protein. This novel adjuvant combination contributes to a more broadly protective vaccine while demonstrating an attractive safety profile.

Keywords: TLR4; TLR7; Toll-like receptor; adjuvant; influenza virus; vaccine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport / genetics
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Female
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / genetics
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / immunology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / virology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / genetics
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / immunology*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / prevention & control
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7 / immunology*
  • Vaccination


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Myd88 protein, mouse
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • TICAM-1 protein, mouse
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Tlr7 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Toll-Like Receptor 7