To date, the most potent mucosal vaccine adjuvants to be identified have been bacterial toxins. The present data demonstrate that the type 2 ribosome-inactivating protein (type 2 RIP), mistletoe lectin I (ML-I) is a strong mucosal adjuvant of plant origin. A number of plant lectins were investigated as intranasal (i.n.) coadjuvants for a bystander protein, ovalbumin (OVA). As a positive control, a potent mucosal adjuvant, cholera toxin (CT), was used. Co-administration of ML-I or CT with OVA stimulated high titres of OVA-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) in addition to OVA-specific IgA in mucosal secretions. CT and ML-I were also strongly immunogenic, inducing high titres of specific serum IgG and specific IgA at mucosal sites. None of the other plant lectins investigated significantly boosted the response to co-administered OVA. Immunization with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) plus OVA elicited a lectin-specific response but did not stimulate an enhanced response to OVA compared with the antigen alone. Intranasal delivery of tomato lectin (LEA) elicited a strong lectin-specific systemic and mucosal antibody response but only weakly potentiated the response to co-delivered OVA. In contrast, administration of wheatgerm agglutinin (WGA) or Ulex europaeus lectin 1 (UEA-I) with OVA stimulated a serum IgG response to OVA while the lectin-specific responses (particularly for WGA) were relatively low. Thus, there was not a direct correlation between immunogenicity and adjuvanticity although the strongest adjuvants (CT, ML-I) were also highly immunogenic.
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