Covalent Conjugation of Peptide Antigen to Mesoporous Silica Rods to Enhance Cellular Responses

Date Published:

2018 Jan 10


Short peptides are the minimal modality of antigen recognized by cellular immunity and are therefore considered a safe and highly specific source of antigen for vaccination. Nevertheless, successful peptide immunotherapy is limited by the short half-life of peptide antigens in vivo as well as their weak immunogenicity. We recently reported a vaccine strategy based on dendritic cell-recruiting Mesoporous Silica Rod (MSR) scaffolds to enhance T-cell responses against subunit antigen. In this study, we investigated the effect of covalently conjugating peptide antigens to MSRs to increase their retention in the scaffolds. Using both stable thioether and reducible disulfide linkages, peptide conjugation greatly increased peptide loading compared to passive adsorption. In vitro, Bone Marrow derived Dendritic Cells (BMDCs) could present Ovalbumin (OVA)-derived peptides conjugated to MSRs and induce antigen-specific T-cell proliferation. Stable conjugation decreased presentation in vitro while reducible conjugation maintained levels of presentation as high as soluble peptide. Compared to soluble peptide, in vitro, expansion of OT-II T-cells was not affected by adsorption or stable conjugation to MSRs but was enhanced with reversible conjugation to MSRs. Both conjugation schemes increased peptide residence time in MSR scaffolds in vivo compared to standard bolus injections or a simple adsorption method. When MSR scaffolds loaded with GM-CSF and CpG-ODN were injected subcutaneously, recruited dendritic cells could present antigen in situ with the stable conjugation increasing presentation capacity. Overall, this simple conjugation approach could serve as a versatile platform to efficiently incorporate peptide antigens in MSR vaccines and potentiate cellular responses.