Author(s): McSorley SJ, Ehst BD, Yu Y, Gewirtz AT
Flagellin is secreted by many enteric bacteria and, upon reaching the basolateral membrane of the intestinal epithelium, activates Toll-like receptor 5-mediated innate immune signaling pathways. We hypothesized that any flagellin that gets beyond the epithelium might also regulate cells of the adaptive immune system. Here we demonstrate that the clonal expansion of naive DO11.10 CD4 T cells in response to OVA peptide (323-339) was enhanced 3- to 10-fold in the presence of purified bacterial flagellin in vivo. OVA-specific CD4 T cells were also shown to have undergone more cell division in vivo if flagellin was coinjected with OVA. Flagellin administration increased the expression of B7-1 on splenic dendritic cells, and coinjection of CTLA4-Ig, which is known to block B7 function in vivo, completely ablated the adjuvant effect on CD4 T cells. Therefore, a conserved bacterial protein produced by many intestinal microbes can modulate CD4 T cell activation in vivo. Such an adjuvant effect for flagellin has important implications for vaccine development and the generation of CD4 T cell responses to enteric bacteria.