20 December 2016

A new study published in Nature Communications elucidates how the cancer vaccine adjuvant saponin potentiates antigen cross-presentation in dendritic cells through induction of lipid bodies.

Cancer vaccines

Martijn den Brok (photo up) and colleagues in the lab of Gosse Adema. theme Cancer development and immune defense, together with colleagues from amongst others MSD (former Intervet) strive to develop and advance cancer vaccines. Vaccine improvement for the treatment of established cancer has proven challenging. Saponin-based adjuvants are gaining ground as component in animal and human (cancer) vaccines, since they induce protective cellular immunity. Their adjuvant potency has been related to enhanced antigen cross-presentation by dendritic cells (DCs) that is crucial for cellular immunity. How these adjuvants act to induce antigen cross-presentation by DCs has remained obscure.

A team of researchers led by Gosse Adema from the Dept. of Tumor Immunology now shows that saponin adjuvant exposure enhances antigen cross-presentation through the induction of intracellular Lipid Bodies in a specific monocytic DC subset. Lipid body organelles consist of a phospholipid monolayer containing numerous unknown proteins that surrounds a core of neutral lipids, such as sterol esters or triacylglycerols. Using genetic and pharmacological interference in models for vaccination and in situ tumor-ablation, the authors demonstrate that lipid body induction is causally related to the saponin-dependent increase in cross-presentation and T-cell activation. 

These novel findings aid the application of saponin-based adjuvants as cancer vaccine component, and will stimulate development of new adjuvants enforcing T-cell-mediated immunity.


Saponin-based adjuvants induce cross-presentation in dendritic cells by intracellular lipid body formation.


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