Direct interaction between cholera toxin and dendritic cells is required for oral adjuvant activity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cholera toxin (CT) binds to GM1-ganglioside receptors present on all nucleated cells. Despite this, it is a very potent mucosal adjuvant that has a dramatic impact on immune cells, as well as nerve and epithelial cells, causing diarrhea. This fact has hampered our understanding of whether the adjuvanticity of CT is direct or indirect, as cells that bind CT may or may not be involved in its adjuvant function. The mucosal barrier is maintained by tight junctions between epithelial cells but dendritic cells (DCs) can protrude luminal dendrites. Here we investigated which cells are involved in the immune augmenting effect of CT. We explored oral immunizations with ovalbumin (OVA) and CT in bone marrow chimeric mice deficient in GM1-ganglioside in defined cellular subsets. We found that chimeric mice lacking GM1 in nonhematopoietic cells, including epithelial cells, mounted an unaltered intestinal IgA response. In contrast, chimeric mice lacking GM1-expressing hematopoietic cells in general, or specifically GM1-expressing conventional DCs (cDCs), largely failed to elicit anti-OVA adaptive immune responses. Therefore, the adjuvanticity of CT does not require epithelial activation, but is directly dependent on the binding of CT to gut cDCs via GM1-ganglioside. These results could have important implications for the generation of novel oral adjuvants.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology in the medical area


  • Cholera toxin, DC, IgA, Mucosal immunity, Oral adjuvants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1779-1788
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch