Bacterial toxins as mucosal adjuvants

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 1999;236:215-36. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-59951-4_11.


The use of mucosally administered killed bacteria or viruses as vaccines has a number of attractive features over the use of viable attenuated organisms, including safety, cost, storage and ease of delivery. Unfortunately, mucosally administered killed organisms are not usually effective as vaccines. The use of LT(R192G), a genetically detoxified derivative of LT, as a mucosal adjuvant enables the use of killed bacteria or viruses as vaccines by enhancing the overall humoral and cellular host immune response to these organisms, especially the Th1 arm of the immune response. With this adjuvant, protective responses equivalent to those elicited by live attenuated organisms can be achieved with killed organisms without the potential side effects. These findings have significant implications for vaccine development and further support the potential of LT(R192G) to function as a safe, effective adjuvant for mucosally administered vaccines. There are a number of unresolved issues regarding the use of LT and CT mutants as mucosal adjuvants. Both active-site and protease-site mutants of LT and CT have been constructed and adjuvanticity reported for these molecules in various animal models and with different antigens. There needs to be a side-by-side comparison of CT, LT, active-site mutants, protease-site mutants and recombinant B subunits regarding the ability to induce specific, targeted immunological outcomes as a function of route of immunization and nature of the co-administered antigen. Those side-by-side comparisons have not been carried out and there is a substantial body of evidence indicating that the outcomes may very well be different. With that information, vaccine strategies could be designed employing the optimum adjuvant/antigen formulation and route of administration for a variety of bacterial and viral pathogens. Also lacking is an understanding of the underlying cellular and intracellular signaling pathways activated by these different molecules and an understanding of the mechanisms of adjuvanticity at the cellular level. These are important issues because they take us beyond the phenomenological observations of "enhanced immunity" to a more clear understanding of the mechanisms of adjuvant activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology
  • Cholera Toxin / immunology
  • Enterotoxins / genetics
  • Enterotoxins / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology*
  • Mouth Mucosa / immunology
  • Salmonella / immunology
  • Salmonella Infections, Animal / immunology
  • Salmonella Infections, Animal / prevention & control


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Enterotoxins
  • Cholera Toxin