Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

K. Jagannadha Sastry

Committee Member

Mary K. Estes

Committee Member

Jeffrey K. Actor

Committee Member

Pramod N. Nehete

Committee Member

Chengming Zhu

Committee Member

Dapeng Zhou


Adjuvants are essential components of vaccine formulations that enhance adaptive immune responses to antigens, particularly for immunizations targeting the tolerogenic mucosal tissues, which are more biologically relevant for protective immunity against pathogens transmitted by the mucosal routes. Adjuvants possess the inherent capacity to bridge innate and adaptive immune responses through activating innate immune mediators. Here evidence is presented in support of the effectiveness of a synthetic glycolipid, alpha-Galactosylceramide (-GalCer), as an adjuvant for mucosal immunization with peptide and protein antigens, by oral and intranasal routes, to prime antigen-specific immune responses in multiple systemic and mucosal compartments. The adjuvant activity of -GalCer delivered by the intranasal route was manifested in terms of potent activation of NKT cells, an important innate immunity mediator, along with the activation of dendritic cells (DC) which serve as the professional antigen-presenting cells. Data from this investigation provide the first evidence for mucosal delivery as an effective means to harness the adjuvant potential of α-GalCer for priming as well as boosting cellular immune responses to co-administered immunogens. Unlike systemic administration where a single dose of α-GalCer leads to anergy of responding NKT cells and thus hinders delivery of booster immunizations, we demonstrated that administration of multiple doses of α-GalCer by the intranasal route affords repeated activation of NKT cells and the induction of broad systemic and mucosal immunity. This is specifically advantageous, and may be even essential, for vaccination regimens against mucosal pathogens such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the human papillomavirus (HPV), where priming of durable protective immunity at the mucosal portals of pathogen entry would be highly desirable.


Mucosal Immunity, NKT cells, alpha-Galactosylceramide, Intranasal immunization, oral immunization, anergy



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