Clinical Adjuvant Combinations Stimulate Potent B-Cell Responses In Vitro by Activating Dermal Dendritic Cells
CD14(+) dermal DCs (CD14(+) DDCs) have a natural capacity to activate naïve B-cells. Targeting CD14(+) DDCs is therefore a rational approach for vaccination strategies aimed at improving humoral responses towards poorly immunogenic antigens, for example, HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env). Here, we show that two clinically relevant TLR ligand combinations, Hiltonol plus Resiquimod and Glucopyranosyl lipid A plus Resiquimod, potently activate CD14(+) DDCs, as shown by enhanced expression of multiple cytokines (IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p40 and TNF-α). Furthermore, the responses of CD14(+) DDCs to these TLR ligands were not compromised by the presence of HIV-1 gp120, which can drive immunosuppressive effects in vitro and in vivo. The above TLR ligand pairs were better than the individual agents at boosting the inherent capacity of CD14(+) DDCs to induce naïve B-cells to proliferate and differentiate into CD27(+) CD38(+) B-cells that secrete high levels of immunoglobulins. CD14(+) DDCs stimulated by these TLR ligand combinations also promoted the differentiation of Th1 (IFN-γ-secreting), but not Th17, CD4(+) T-cells. These observations may help to identify adjuvant strategies aimed at inducing better antibody responses to vaccine antigens, including, but not limited to HIV-1 Env.