Dendritic Cell Sensing of Hydrophobic Di- and Triacylated Lipopeptides Self-Assembled within Synthetic Virus-like Particles [INNATE IMMUNITY AND INFLAMMATION]

Dendritic cells (DCs) play critical roles in developing immune defenses. One important aspect is interaction with pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs)/danger-associated molecular patterns, including di- and triacylated lipopeptides. Isolated or synthetic lipopeptides are potent vaccine adjuvants, interacting with cell surface TLR2 heterodimers. In contrast, deep embedment within bacteria cell walls would impair lipopeptide interaction with cell surface TLR2, requiring degradation for PAMP recognition. Accordingly, DC processing in the absence of surface TLR2 ligation was defined using synthetic virus-like particles (SVLPs) carrying hydrophobic TLR2 PAMPs within di- and triacylated lipopeptide cores (P2Cys-SVLPs and P3Cys-SVLPs) compared with SVLPs lacking immunomodulatory lipopeptides. DCs rapidly and efficiently internalized SVLPs, which was dominated by slow endocytic processing via macropinocytosis, although some caveolar endocytosis was implicated. This delivered SVLPs primarily into macropinosomes often interacting with EEA-1+ early endosomes. Although endoplasmic reticulum association was occasionally noted, association with recycling/sorting structures was not observed. Involvement of LysoTracker+ structures slowly increased with time, with SVLPs present in such structures ultimately dominating. Only SVLPs carrying di- and triacylated lipopeptide cores induced DC activation and maturation independently of surface TLR2 ligation. Intracellular recognition of SVLP TLR2 ligands was confirmed by observing SVLPs’ association with internal TLR2, which had similar kinetics to SVLP association with LysoTracker. This related to inflammatory cytokine induction by SVLP+ DCs, with adaptive immune response activation ex vivo/in vivo. Importantly, particular DCs, not monocytes, recognized intracellular exposure of the TLR2 PAMPs carried by di- and triacylated SVLP cores, which indicates subset-distinct recognition of functional internal TLR2 ligands. Thus, vaccines carrying hydrophobic TLR2 ligands would interact with particular DCs for efficient induction of specific immunity in the absence of additional adjuvant.

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