Intranasal delivery of adjuvant-free peptide nanofibers elicits resident CD8+ T cell responses

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Abstract

Influenza vaccines that can be administered intranasally or by other needle-free delivery routes have potential advantages over injected formulations in terms of patient compliance, cost, and ease of global distribution. Supramolecular peptide nanofibers have been investigated previously as platforms for vaccines and immunotherapies and have been shown to raise immune responses in the absence of exogenous adjuvants and without measurable inflammation. However, at present it has not been tested whether the immunogenicity of these materials extends to the intranasal route. Here we investigated the extent to which self-assembled peptide nanofibers bearing an influenza peptide epitope elicit antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses when delivered intranasally, and we compared these responses with those elicited by subcutaneous immunization. Peptides containing an epitope from influenza acid polymerase (PA) and the Q11 self-assembly domain formed nanofibers that were avidly taken up by dendritic cells in lung-draining mediastinal lymph nodes after intranasal immunization. Intranasally delivered nanofibers generated greater antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses in the lung-draining lymph nodes than subcutaneous immunizations while retaining the non-inflammatory character of the materials observed in other delivery sites. The CD8+ T cells elicited systemically were functional as assessed by their ability to produce IFN-γ ex vivo, lyse epitope-pulsed target cells in vivo, and diminish viral loads in infected mice. Compared to subcutaneously delivered nanofibers, intranasally delivered peptide nanofibers significantly increased the number of persisting antigen-specific tissue resident memory CD8+ T cells in the lung, allowing for a more rapid response to infection at 6 weeks post-vaccination. These results indicate that intranasally delivered self-assembled peptide nanofibers are immunogenic when delivering CD8+ epitopes without adjuvant or CD4+ epitopes, are non-inflammatory, and promote more lung-resident memory CD8+ T cells compared to subcutaneous immunization.

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