Therapeutic vaccines for nicotine addiction show pre-clinical efficacy. Yet, clinical evaluation of the first-generation nicotine vaccines did not meet expectations because only a subset of immunized subjects achieved effective serum antibody levels. Recent studies suggest that vaccine design affects B cell activation, and that the frequency of the hapten-specific B cell subsets contributes to vaccine efficacy against drugs of abuse. To extend this hypothesis to nicotine immunogens, we synthesized a novel hapten containing a carboxymethylureido group at the 2-position of the nicotine structure (2CMUNic) and compared its efficacy to the previously characterized 6CMUNic hapten. Haptens were conjugated to the keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) carrier protein, and evaluated for efficacy against nicotine in mice using the clinically approved alum adjuvant. Using a novel fluorescent antigen-based magnetic enrichment strategy paired with multicolor flow cytometry analysis, polyclonal hapten-specific B cell subsets were measured in mice immunized with either 6CMUNic-KLH or 2CMUNic-KLH. The 6CMUNic-KLH showed significantly greater efficacy than 2CMUNic-KLH on nicotine distribution to serum and to the brain. The 6CMUNic-KLH elicited higher anti-nicotine serum antibody titers, and greater expansion of hapten-specific B cells than 2CMUNic-KLH. Within the splenic polyclonal B cell population, a higher number of hapten-specific IgMhigh and germinal centre B cells predicted greater vaccine efficacy against nicotine distribution. These early pre-clinical findings suggest that hapten structure affects activation of B cells, and that variations in the frequency of early-activated hapten-specific B cell subsets underlie individual differences in vaccine efficacy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by NIH DA034487 (Pravetoni), and a MMRF Translational Research Program Award (Pravetoni). The authors thank Theresa Harmon and Danielle Burroughs for outstanding technical assistance.
- Antigen-specific B cells