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Synthetic nonmethylated oligonucleotides containing CpG dinucleotides (CpG-ODNs) have been shown to exhibit immunostimulatory activity. CpG-ODNs have the capacity to directly activate B cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, and we show here that this is reflected by cell surface binding of oligonucleotides to these cell subsets. However, T cells are not directly activated by CpG-ODNs, which correlates with the failure to bind to the T-cell surface. Efficient competition for CpG-induced B-cell activation by non-CpG-containing oligonucleotides suggests that oligonucleotides might bind to an as yet undefined sequence-nonspecific receptor prior to cellular activation. Induction of protective T-cell responses against challenge infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) or with recombinant vaccinia virus expressing the LCMV glycoprotein was achieved by immunizing mice with the immunodominant major histocompatibility complex class I-binding LCMV glycoprotein-derived peptide gp33 together with CpG-ODNs. In these experiments, B cells, potentially serving as CpG-ODN-activated antigen-presenting cells (APCs), were not required for induction of protective immunity since CpG-ODN-gp33-immunized B-cell-deficient mice were equally protected against challenge infection with both viruses. This finding suggested that macrophages and/or dendritic cells were sufficiently activated in vivo by CpG-ODNs to serve as potent APCs for the induction of naive T cells. Furthermore, treatment with CpG-ODN alone induced protection against infection with Listeria monocytogenes via antigen-independent activation of macrophages. These data suggest that CpG activation of macrophages and dendritic cells may provide a critical step in CpG-ODN adjuvant activity.


Journal article


Journal of virology

Publication Date





4120 - 4126


Institute of Experimental Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Zurich, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


Spleen, B-Lymphocytes, T-Lymphocytes, Cell Line, Vero Cells, Cell Membrane, Macrophages, Animals, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Cercopithecus aethiops, Mice, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, Vaccinia, Vaccines, DNA, Dinucleoside Phosphates, Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Viral Vaccines, Adjuvants, Immunologic, Lymphocyte Activation, Recombination, Genetic, Amino Acid Sequence, Molecular Sequence Data, Cricetinae, Listeriosis