Mechanisms of adjuvancy: I--Metal oxides as adjuvants

Vaccine. 1997 Aug;15(11):1183-93. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(97)00016-9.


The exact mechanism of how immune adjuvants function still remains largely unknown, despite their long history of use. This work reports the properties of alum and the related compounds Al(OH)3 or Al2O3. Experiments were performed in rats to determine the relative adjuvancy of silica, talc, ground glass, Al2O3, SnO2, ZrO2, hematite and magnetite. Antibody response and cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to ovalbumin (OVA) were determined and were found to be significantly enhanced by silica and talc. Antibody response to OVA was moderately enhanced by Al2O3, hematite, and magnetite, while CMI to OVA was not affected, SnO2, ZrO2, and ground glass only gave a slight adjuvant effect. The magnitude of adjuvancy appeared to correlate with the magnitude of the inflammatory response produced by each metal oxide and also correlated with their surface area. No correlation could be drawn between the hydrophilicity or hydrophobicity of the metal oxides and the magnitude of their adjuvancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Adsorption
  • Alum Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Aluminum Hydroxide / pharmacology*
  • Aluminum Oxide / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Metals / chemistry
  • Metals / pharmacology
  • Oxides / chemistry
  • Oxides / pharmacology
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Rats


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Alum Compounds
  • Metals
  • Oxides
  • Proteins
  • aluminum sulfate
  • Aluminum Hydroxide
  • Aluminum Oxide