• Open Access

Cyclic di-nucleotides: new era for small molecules as adjuvants

Authors

  • Rimma Libanova,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany.
      E-mail rimma.libanova@helmholtz-hzi.de; Tel. (+49) 531 61814609; Fax (+49)531 6181 4699.
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  • Pablo D. Becker,

    1. Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany.
    2. Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology, King's College London, London SE1 9RT, UK.
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  • Carlos A. Guzmán

    1. Department of Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany.
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E-mail rimma.libanova@helmholtz-hzi.de; Tel. (+49) 531 61814609; Fax (+49)531 6181 4699.

Summary

The implementation of vaccination as an empiric strategy to protect against infectious diseases was introduced even before the advent of hygiene and antimicrobials in the medical practice. Nevertheless, it was not until a few decades ago that we really started understanding the underlying mechanisms of protection triggered by vaccination. Vaccines were initially based on attenuated or inactivated organisms. Subunit vaccines were then introduced as more refined formulations, exhibiting improved safety profiles. However, purified antigens tend to be poorly immunogenic and often require the use of adjuvants to achieve adequate stimulation of the immune system. Vaccination strategies, such as mucosal administration, also require potent adjuvants to improve performance. In the 1990s, immunologists found that pathogens could be sensed as ‘danger signals’ by receptors recognizing conserved motifs. Although our knowledge is still limited, tremendous advances were made in the understanding of host defence mechanisms regulated by these evolutionary conserved receptors, and the molecular structures which are recognized by them. This opened a new era in adjuvant development. Some of the latest players arrived to this field are the cyclic di-nucleotides, which are ubiquitous prokaryotic intracellular signalling molecules. This review is focused on their potential for the development of vaccines and immunotherapies.

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