Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Dec 03, 2018
Polysaccharide structure dictates mechanism of adaptive immune response to glycoconjugate vaccines.
Glycoconjugate vaccines are among the most effective interventions for preventing several serious infectious diseases. Covalent linkage of the bacterial capsular polysaccharide to a carrier protein provides CD4+ T cells with epitopes that facilitate a memory response to the polysaccharide. Classically, the mechanism responsible for antigen processing was thought to be similar to what was known for hapten-carrier conjugates: protease digestion of the carrier protein in the endosome and presentation of a resulting peptide to the T cell receptor on classical peptide-recognizing CD4+ T cells. Recently, an alternative mechanism has been shown to be responsible for the memory response to some glycoconjugates. Processing of both the protein and the polysaccharide creates glycopeptides in the endosome of antigen-presenting cells. For presentation, the peptide portion of the glycopeptide is bound to MHCII, allowing the covalently linked glycan to activate carbohydrate-specific helper CD4+ T cells (Tcarbs). Herein, we assessed whether this same mechanism applies to conjugates prepared from other capsular polysaccharides. All of the glycoconjugates tested induced Tcarb-dependent responses except that made with group C Neisseria meningitidis; in the latter case, only peptides generated from the carrier protein were critical for helper T cell recognition. Digestion of this acid-sensitive polysaccharide, a linear homopolymer of α(2 → 9)-linked sialic acid, to the size of the monomeric unit resulted in a dominant CD4+ T cell response to peptides in the context of MHCII. Our results show that different mechanisms of presentation, based on the structure of the carbohydrate, are operative in response to different glycoconjugate vaccines.