Neonatal and early life immune responses to various forms of vaccine antigens qualitatively differ from adult responses: predominance of a Th2-biased pattern which persists after adult boosting

Eur J Immunol. 1996 Jul;26(7):1489-96. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830260713.


Induction of neonatal immune responses to vaccine antigens is believed to be of limited efficacy because of immune immaturity and particular susceptibility to tolerogenic signals during this period of life. To characterize particular features of neonatal immune responses to vaccine antigens, we assessed the capacity of BALB/c mice at different stages of immunological maturation to respond to a selection of vaccine antigens and presentation systems. Significant B and T cell responses to vaccine antigens (tetanus and measles virus peptides, tetanus toxoid, live viral attenuated measles virus, canarypox recombinant measles vector or bacillus Calmette-Guérin) were obtained as early as the first week of life. However, these neonatal responses differed qualitatively from adult responses by a decreased IgG2a/IgG1 ratio of vaccine-specific antibodies, the secretion of significantly higher interleukin-5 and lower interferon-gamma levels by vaccine-specific T cells and an impaired induction of cytotoxic T cell precursors. This pattern of biased Th2 versus Th1 responses induced upon early exposure to vaccines was not reversed by decreasing the doses of vaccine antigens. It did not disappear with aging and was still reflected in adult responses to booster immunization with the corresponding antigen. Thus, neonatal immunization can induce significant vaccine specific responses with a predominance of a Th2 pattern which can persist in boosted adult mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / growth & development
  • Animals, Newborn / immunology*
  • Antibody Formation*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Epitopes
  • Immunization, Secondary*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-5 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism
  • Vaccines / immunology*


  • Epitopes
  • Interleukin-5
  • Vaccines
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma