The toll-like receptor ligands Hiltonol® (polyICLC) and imiquimod effectively activate antigen-specific immune responses in Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii)
Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) describes two genetically distinct transmissible tumours that pose a significant threat to the survival of the Tasmanian devil. A prophylactic vaccine could protect devils from DFTD transmission. For this vaccine to be effective, potent immune adjuvants will be required. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) promote robust immune responses in human cancer studies and are highly conserved across mammalian species. In this study, we investigated the proficiency of TLR ligands for immune activation in the Tasmanian devil using in vitro mononuclear cell stimulations and in vivo immunisation trials with a model antigen. We identified two such TLR ligands, polyICLC (Hiltonol®) (TLR3) and imiquimod (TLR7), that in combination induced significant IFNγ production from Tasmanian devil lymphocytes in vitro. Immunisation with these ligands and the model antigen keyhole limpet haemocyanin activated robust antigen-specific primary, secondary and long-term memory IgG responses. Our results support the conserved nature of TLR signaling across mammalian species. PolyICLC and imiquimod will be trialed as immune adjuvants in future DFTD vaccine formulations.