Gut Reaction

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Science  30 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5855, pp. 1351
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5855.1351a

The intestine, as well as providing the wherewithal to digest food, is a dynamic immunological site—and indeed, is the largest in the body. The oral delivery of vaccines has the potential to provide an extremely effective means of immunizing against infection. However, to improve on the few currently successful oral vaccines, new approaches will be needed to deliver antigens selectively to the relevant intestine-situated immune cells. A distinct class of epithelial cells, called M cells, have been seen as ideal targets for some time, because they are specialists in the transfer of antigens from the lumen of the gut to the underlying mucosa. By attaching antigens to a monoclonal antibody that is able to latch selectively onto M cells, Nochi et al. achieved specific delivery to these cells. When compared with antigens that had been coupled to nonspecific immunoglobulin, oral administration of the antigen-conjugated monoclonal led to an increase in elicited antibodies and protection from a normally lethal bacterial challenge. The M-cell specificity of the monoclonal was due to a difference associated with a carbohydrate moiety present on epithelial cells, suggesting that looking for similar targets on human M cells might be beneficial in human vaccine development. — SJS

J. Exp. Med. 10.1084/jem.20070607 (2007).

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