STING pathway stimulation results in a differentially activated innate immune phenotype associated with low nitric oxide and enhanced antibody titers in young and aged mice

Vaccine. 2019 May 6;37(20):2721-2730. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 Apr 12.


Background: One of the most concerning public health issues, related to vaccination and disease prevention, is the inability to induce durable immune responses following a single-dose immunization. In this regard, the nature of the inflammatory environment induced by vaccine adjuvants can negatively impact the resulting immune response. To address these concerns, new strategies to vaccine design are needed in order to improve the outcomes of immune responses, particularly in immunologically disadvantaged populations.

Methods: Comparisons of the scope of innate immune activation induced by TLR agonists versus cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs) was performed. Their effects on the activation characteristics (e.g., metabolism, cytokine secretion) of bone marrow derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) were studied. In addition, the differential effects on in vivo induction of antibody responses were measured.

Results: As compared to TLR ligands, the stimulation of BMDCs with CDNs induced distinctly different metabolic outcomes. Marked differences were observed in the production of nitric oxide (NO) and the cytokine BAFF. These distinct differences were correlated with improved (i.e., more rapid and persistent) vaccine antibody responses in both aged and young mice.

Conclusions: Our results illustrate that the innate immune pathway targeted by adjuvants can critically impact the outcome of the immune response post-vaccination. Specifically, CDN stimulation of APCs induced an activation phenotype that was characterized by decreased innate effector molecule production (e.g., NO) and increased BAFF. This was attributed to the induction of an innate inflammatory environment that enabled the host to make the most of the existing B lymphocyte potential. The use of adjuvants that differentially engage mechanisms of innate immune activation would be particularly advantageous for the generation of robust, single dose vaccines. The results of this study demonstrated that CDNs induced differential innate activation and enhanced vaccine induced antibody responses in both young and aged mice.

Keywords: Adjuvant; BAFF; Cyclic dinucleotide; Metabolism; Nitric oxide; STING; TLR agonist; Vaccine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation*
  • B-Cell Activating Factor / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Phenotype*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / agonists


  • B-Cell Activating Factor
  • Cytokines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • STING1 protein, human
  • Tnfsf13b protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nos2 protein, mouse