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Activation of invariant CD1d-dependent NKT cells (iNKT cells) in vivo through administration of the glycolipid ligand α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) or the sphingosine-truncated α-GalCer analog OCH leads to CD40 signaling as well as the release of soluble molecules including type 1 and γ interferons that contribute to DC maturation. This process enhances T cell immunity to antigens presented by the DC. The adjuvant activity is further amplified if APCs are stimulated through Toll-like receptor 4, suggesting that iNKT cell signals can amplify maturation induced by microbial stimuli. The adjuvant activity of α-GalCer enhances both priming and boosting of CD8+ T cells to coadministered peptide or protein antigens, including a peptide encoding the clinically relevant, HLA-A2-restricted epitope of the human tumor antigen NY-ESO-1. Importantly, α-GalCer was used to induce CD8+ T cells to antigens delivered orally, despite the fact that this route of administration is normally associated with blunted responses. Only T cell responses induced in the presence of iNKT cell stimulation, whether by the i.v. or oral route, were capable of eradicating established tumors. Together these data highlight the therapeutic potential of iNKT cell ligands in vaccination strategies, particularly "heterologous prime-boost" strategies against tumors, and provide evidence that iNKT cell stimulation may be exploited in the development of oral vaccines.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Clinical Investigation

Publication Date





1800 - 1811