Oral co-administration of a bacterial protease inhibitor in the vaccine formulation increases antigen delivery at the intestinal epithelial barrier

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The study of capture and processing of antigens (Ags) by intestinal epithelial cells is very important for development of new oral administration systems. Efficient oral Ag delivery systems must resist enzymatic degradation by gastric and intestinal proteases and deliver the Ag across biological barriers. The recombinant unlipidated outer membrane protein from Brucella spp. (U-Omp19) is a protease inhibitor with immunostimulatory properties used as adjuvant in oral vaccine formulations. In the present work we further characterized its mechanism of action and studied the interaction and effect of U-Omp19 on the intestinal epithelium. We found that U-Omp19 inhibited protease activity from murine intestinal brush-border membranes and cysteine proteases from human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) promoting co-administered Ag accumulation within lysosomal compartments of IECs. In addition, we have shown that co-administration of U-Omp19 facilitated the transcellular passage of Ag through epithelial cell monolayers in vitro and in vivo while did not affect epithelial cell barrier permeability. Finally, oral co-delivery of U-Omp19 in mice induced the production of Ag-specific IgA in feces and the increment of CD103+ CD11b CD8α+ dendritic cells subset at Peyer's patches. Taken together, these data describe a new mechanism of action of a mucosal adjuvant and support the use of this rationale/strategy in new oral delivery systems for vaccines.

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