The squalene-based oil-in-water emulsion (SE) vaccine adjuvant MF59 has been administered to more than 100 million people in more than 30 countries, in both seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines. Despite its wide use and efficacy, its mechanisms of action remain unclear. In this study we demonstrate that immunization of mice with MF59 or its mimetic AddaVax (AV) plus soluble antigen results in robust antigen-specific antibody and CD8 T cell responses in lymph nodes and non-lymphoid tissues. Immunization triggered rapid RIPK3-kinase dependent necroptosis in the lymph node which peaked at 6 hr, followed by a sequential wave of apoptosis. Immunization with alum plus antigen did not induce RIPK3-dependent signaling. RIPK3-dependent signaling induced by MF59 or AV was essential for cross-presentation of antigen to CD8 T cells by Batf3-dependent CD8+ DCs. Consistent with this, RIPK3 deficient or Batf3 deficient mice were impaired in their ability to mount adjuvant-enhanced CD8 T cell responses. However, CD8 T cell responses were unaffected in mice deficient in MLKL, a downstream mediator of necroptosis. Surprisingly, antibody responses were unaffected in RIPK3-kinase or Batf3 deficient mice. In contrast, antibody responses were impaired by in vivo administration of the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK, but normal in caspase-1 deficient mice, suggesting a contribution from apoptotic caspases, in the induction of antibody responses. These results demonstrate that squalene emulsion-based vaccine adjuvants induce antigen-specific CD8 T cell and antibody responses, through RIPK3-dependent and-independent pathways, respectively.
Keywords: MF59; RIPK3; adjuvant; cell death; immunology; inflammation; macrophage; mouse; vaccine.
© 2020, Kim et al.