Influence of maternal antibodies on vaccine responses: inhibition of antibody but not T cell responses allows successful early prime-boost strategies in mice

Eur J Immunol. 1998 Dec;28(12):4138-48. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199812)28:12<4138::AID-IMMU4138>3.0.CO;2-L.


The transfer of maternal antibodies to the offspring and their inhibitory effects on active infant immunization is an important factor hampering the use of certain vaccines, such as measles or respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, in early infancy. The resulting delay in protection by conventional or novel vaccines may have significant public health consequences. To define immunization approaches which may circumvent this phenomenon, experiments were set up to further elucidate its immunological bases. The influence of maternal antibodies on antibody and T cell responses to measles hemagglutinin (MV-HA) were analyzed following MV-HA immunization of pups born to immune or control BALB/c mothers using four different antigen delivery systems: live or inactivated conventional measles vaccine, a live recombinant canarypox vector and a DNA vaccine. High levels (> 5 log10) of maternal anti-HA antibodies totally inhibited antibody responses to each of the vaccine constructs, whereas normal antibody responses were elicited in presence of lower titers of maternal antibodies. However, even high titers of maternal antibodies affected neither the induction of vaccine-specific Th1/Th2 responses, as assessed by proliferation and levels of IFN-gamma and IL-5 production, nor CTL responses in infant mice. On the basis of these unaltered T cell responses, very early priming and boosting (at 1 and 3 weeks of age, respectively) with live measles vaccine allowed to circumvent maternal antibody inhibition of antibody responses in pups of immune mothers. This was confirmed in another immunization model (tetanus toxoid). It suggests that effective vaccine responses may be obtained earlier in presence of maternal antibodies through the use of appropriate immunization strategies using conventional or novel vaccines for early priming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Female
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Mice
  • Pregnancy
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Vaccination*


  • Antibodies