Poly(amino acids) as a potent self-adjuvanting delivery system for peptide-based nanovaccines

Sci Adv. 2020 Jan 29;6(5):eaax2285. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax2285. eCollection 2020 Jan.


To be optimally effective, peptide-based vaccines need to be administered with adjuvants. Many currently available adjuvants are toxic, not biodegradable; they invariably invoke adverse reactions, including allergic responses and excessive inflammation. A nontoxic, biodegradable, biocompatible, self-adjuvanting vaccine delivery system is urgently needed. Herein, we report a potent vaccine delivery system fulfilling the above requirements. A peptide antigen was coupled with poly-hydrophobic amino acid sequences serving as self-adjuvanting moieties using solid-phase synthesis, to produce fully defined single molecular entities. Under aqueous conditions, these molecules self-assembled into distinct nanoparticles and chain-like aggregates. Following subcutaneous immunization in mice, these particles successfully induced opsonic epitope-specific antibodies without the need of external adjuvant. Mice immunized with entities bearing 15 leucine residues were able to clear bacterial load from target organs without triggering the release of soluble inflammatory mediators. Thus, we have developed a well-defined and effective self-adjuvanting delivery system for peptide antigens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / immunology
  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Epitopes / drug effects
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Vaccines / chemistry
  • Vaccines / immunology
  • Vaccines / pharmacology*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / chemistry
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology
  • Vaccines, Subunit / pharmacology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Amino Acids
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Epitopes
  • Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Subunit