• active immunization;
  • immunocontraception;
  • adjuvants


ZP3 (M, = 55,000) is the major electrophoretic component of the porcine zona pellucida (ZP). In a continuing assessment of ZP3 as a candidate antigen for contraceptive vaccine development, female squirrel monkeys were immunized with 200 μg ZP3 using either Freund's adjuvant (FA) or muramyl dipeptide (MDP) and the effect of such immunization on ovarian histology examined. Two experimental and three control groups were immunized: Group 1 (n = 4), ZP3 plus FA; Group 2 (n = 4),ZP3 plus MDP; and controls—Group 3 (n = 2), ZP3 alone; Group 4 (n = 4), FA alone; and Group 5 (n = 4), saline. High antibody response to ZP3 was detected in the ZP3/FA and ZP3/MDP groups, and a very low response, in the ZP3-alone group. Immune profiles for the ZP3iFA and ZP3/MDP groups were comparable, but titers in the MDP group were consistently lower and decreased more rapidly after 300 days post-immunization (PI) than in the FA group. At 6 months PI, all ovaries from the ZP3/FA group revealed a deficiency of zona-encased oocytes and a reduction in secondary and tertiary follicles compared to controls. At 18–24 months PI, normal ovarian histology in one ZP3/FA injected monkey and the presence of zona-encased oocytes in a second monkey suggested ovarian recovery. Normal ovarian histology was present in all monkeys in the ZP3/MDP group as well as in all controls. These findings indicate that while immunization with ZP3/FA does initially perturb normal ovarian histology, such adverse effects appear to be reversible. Furthermore, immunization using ZP3 with MDP has no adverse effect on the ovary, indicating the importance of proper adjuvant selection in immunocontraceptive (IC) studies. These data encourage continued investigation of the zona IC approach using well-characterized zona immunogens with non-Freund's adjuvants.