Pairwise Stimulations of Pathogen-Sensing Pathways Predict Immune Responses to Multi-adjuvant Combinations

Cell Syst. 2020 Nov 18;11(5):495-508.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2020.10.001. Epub 2020 Oct 27.


The immune system makes decisions in response to combinations of multiple microbial inputs. We do not understand the combinatorial logic governing how higher-order combinations of microbial signals shape immune responses. Here, using coculture experiments and statistical analyses, we discover a general property for the combinatorial sensing of microbial signals, whereby the effects of triplet combinations of microbial signals on immune responses can be predicted by combining the effects of single and pairs. Mechanistically, we find that singles and pairs dictate the information signaled by triplets in mouse and human DCs at the levels of transcription, chromatin, and protein secretion. We exploit this simplifying property to develop cell-based immunotherapies prepared with adjuvant combinations that trigger protective responses in mouse models of cancer. We conclude that the processing of multiple input signals by innate immune cells is governed by pairwise effects, which will inform the rationale combination of adjuvants to manipulate immunity.

Keywords: adjuvants; cancer immunotherapy; cell therapy; innate immunity; pattern-recognition receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / physiology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition