Carbon nanotubes' surface chemistry determines their potency as vaccine nanocarriersin vitroandin vivo

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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have shown marked capabilities in enhancing antigen delivery to antigen presenting cells. However, proper understanding of how altering the physical properties of CNTs may influence antigen uptake by antigen presenting cells, such as dendritic cells (DCs), has not been established yet. We hypothesized that altering the physical properties of multi-walled CNTs (MWNTs)-antigen conjugates, e.g. length and surface charge, can affect the internalization of MWNT-antigen by DCs, hence the induced immune response potency. For this purpose, pristine MWNTs (p-MWNTs) were exposed to various chemical reactions to modify their physical properties then conjugated to ovalbumin (OVA), a model antigen. The yielded MWNTs-OVA conjugates were long MWNT-OVA (˜ 386 nm), bearing net positive charge (5.8 mV), or short MWNTs-OVA (˜ 122 nm) of increasing negative charges (− 23.4, − 35.8 or − 39 mV). Compared to the short MWNTs-OVA bearing high negative charges, short MWNT-OVA with the lowest negative charge demonstrated better cellular uptake and OVA-specific immune response both in vitro and in vivo. However, long positively-charged MWNT-OVA showed limited cellular uptake and OVA specific immune response in contrast to short MWNT-OVA displaying the least negative charge. We suggest that reduction in charge negativity of MWNT-antigen conjugate enhances cellular uptake and thus the elicited immune response intensity. Nevertheless, length of MWNT-antigen conjugate might also affect the cellular uptake and immune response potency; highlighting the importance of physical properties as a consideration in designing a MWNT-based vaccine delivery system.Graphical abstract

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