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Inducing a strong and specific immune response is the hallmark of a successful vaccine. Nanoparticles have emerged as promising vaccine delivery devices to discover and elicit immune responses. Modular platforms are attractive for their engineerability and broad potential applications. Fine-tuning a nanoparticle vaccine to create an immune response with specific antibody and other cellular responses is influenced by many factors such as shape, size and composition. Peptide amphiphile micelles are a unique biomaterials platform that can function as a modular vaccine delivery system, enabling control over many of these important factors. Peptide amphiphiles (PAs) consist of a hydrophilic peptide antigen conjugated to a hydrophobic lipid tail. The PAs then self-assemble into micelles, with the micelle characteristics determined by the chemical composition of the PA and micelle preparation methods. PA micelles contain a large design space, so it is important to have a basic understanding of how each design feature can affect the platform’s interaction with the immune system. ,In this dissertation, the structure, composition, and biodistribution properties of PA micelles are evaluated for their ability to impact an immune response against a Group A Streptococcus B cell antigen (J8). Through structural design and physical characterization, micelles are shown to self-assemble into either short rod-like or long cylindrical shapes. Analyzing these shape effects on the immune response showed that cylindrical micelles induced higher antibody titers than rod-like micelles, providing evidence that the cylindrical micelle shape is important to induce immune responses and a possible mechanism of action. Shape was also seen to impact the activation profile of dendritic cells, B cells and T cells. Assembly into cylindrical micelles also stabilizes the secondary structure of peptide antigens, which may impact the immune response raised. In composition, the hydrophobic/hydrophilic interface of PA micelles enabled the precise entrapment of amphiphilic adjuvants which were found to not alter micelle formation or shape. These heterogeneous micelles significantly enhanced murine antibody responses when compared to animals vaccinated with non-adjuvanted micelles or soluble J8 peptide supplemented with a classical adjuvant. PAs were also shown to traffic more efficiently to the lymph node than free peptide. Characterization of these design features and their impact on an immune response provides a valuable foundation of knowledge to apply when expanding the peptide amphiphile micelle platform to other vaccine applications.


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