Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

K. Jagannadha Sastry

Committee Member

Gregory A. Lizée

Committee Member

Prahlad T. Ram

Committee Member

Kimberly S. Schluns

Committee Member

Dapeng Zhou


Potent vaccine formulations ideally include adjuvants to activate innate immune responses and enhance antigen-specific adaptive immunity. The synthetic glycolipid alpha-Galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) effectively activates the innate immune mediating NKT cells to produce cytokines and activate downstream immune cells, resulting in development of humoral and cell mediated immune responses to co-administered antigens. While a single intravenous immunization of α-GalCer strongly activates NKT cells, multiple doses by this route are well documented to induce anergy in NKT cells. Anergy is defined as the deficiency in NKT proliferation and cytokine production, including IL-4 and IFNγ. However, our studies have shown that two doses of α-GalCer administered intranasally by the intranasal route leads to reactivation of NKT cells and improved adaptive immune responses after each subsequent dose. I therefore investigated the role of multiple routes of immunization in activation of NKT cells, i.e. anergy versus repeated activation. Specifically, I hypothesized that the differential capacity of NKT cells to produce IFNγ, as a result of route of immunization with α-GalCer, influences the induction of adaptive immune responses to co-administered antigen. Our experimental design utilizes the observation that intranasal immunization primarily induces immune responses in the lungs while intravenous immunization induces responses in the liver.

Using intracellular cytokine staining for IFNγ production and Elispot analyses for determining NKT and T cell activation, respectively, it was determined that administering two consecutive intravenous doses resulted in anergy to NKT cells (no IFNγ production) in the liver and lack of adaptive immunity while second immunization by the intranasal route overcame anergy in the lung. The outcome in the other tissues analyzed was mixed and could be the result of tissue microenvironment among others possible reasons. When intranasal dosing preceded systemic, NKT cells were reactivated to produce IFNγ and induced positive adaptive immune responses in the responding lung tissue. These results indicate that the mechanism by which mucosal and systemic immunization routes activate NKT cells may differ in that there is a differential tissue-specific effect induced by each route. Future studies are necessary to determine the reason for these tissue-specific effects and how they relate to NKT cell activation.


NKT, NKT anergy, α-GalCer, mucosal immunization, intranasal, TC-1 tumor, HPV tumor, adjuvant, lung, liver



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