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Pathogen recognition and development of particulate vaccines: does size matter?

Xiang SD, Scholzen A, Minigo G, David C, Apostolopoulos V, Mottram PL, Plebanski M

  • Journal Methods (San Diego, Calif.)

  • Published 11 Jan 2007

  • Volume 40

  • ISSUE 1

  • Pagination 1-9

  • DOI 10.1016/j.ymeth.2006.05.016


The use of particulate carriers holds great promise for the development of effective and affordable recombinant vaccines. Rational development requires a detailed understanding of particle up-take and processing mechanisms to target cellular pathways capable of stimulating the required immune responses safely. These mechanisms are in turn based on how the host has evolved to recognize and process pathogens. Pathogens, as well as particulate vaccines, come in a wide range of sizes and biochemical compositions. Some of these also provide 'danger signals' so that antigen 'senting cells (APC), usually dendritic cells (DC), acquire specific stimulatory activity. Herein, we provide an overview of the types of particles currently under investigation for the formulation of vaccines, discuss cellular uptake mechanisms (endocytosis, macropinocytosis, phagocytosis, clathrin-dependent and/or caveloae-mediated) for pathogens and particles of different sizes, as well as antigen possessing and presentation by APC in general, and DC in particular. Since particle size and composition can influence the immune response, inducing humoral and/or cellular immunity, activating CD8 T cells and/or CD4 T cells of T helper 1 and/or T helper 2 type, particle characteristics have a major impact on vaccine efficacy. Recently developed methods for the formulation of particulate vaccines are presented in this issue of Methods, showcasing a range of "cutting edge" particulate vaccines that employ particles ranging from nano to micro-sized. This special issue of Methods further addresses practical issues of production, affordability, reproducibility and stability of formulation, and also includes a discussion of the economic and regulatory challenges encountered in developing vaccines for veterinary use and for common Third World infectious diseases.