In vivo administration of exogenous cytokines may influence elicited immune responses, and hence may change the efficacy of a vaccine. We investigated the effects of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha), interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) on the immune response elicited by inactivated rabies virus vaccine in a mouse model. Each of the cytokines increased virus-specific IgG responses after primary and after secondary immunization. A single dose of 1.3 ng TNF-alpha or IL-1 alpha, when injected shortly before vaccination, only marginally stimulated resistance to challenge infection (four- and seven-fold, respectively) without enhancing virus neutralizing antibody (VNAb) responses. In contrast, a single injection of 10(3) units of IFN-gamma or five daily injections of 1.6 micrograms IL-2 increased vaccine dilutions protecting 50% of mice (PD50 values) 77- to 50-fold, respectively, with a concomitant enhancement of VNAb. At a 1:10,000 dilution of a standard inactivated rabies vaccine preparation both IFN-gamma and IL-2 increased protective immunity without enhancing VNAb responses; in non-vaccinated animals this treatment had no effect on resistance to challenge. Combined administration of IFN-gamma and IL-2 synergistically enhanced VNAb responses. In contrast to the other cytokines tested, IFN-gamma preferentially stimulated virus-specific IgG2a production. It also augmented the vaccine-induced priming of rabies virus-specific splenocyte proliferation. These results document that certain cytokines alone or in combination are potent immunological adjuvants which may direct and modulate immunization-induced antiviral immune responses.

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Journal of General Virology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Schijns, V., Claassen, I., Vermeulen, A. A., Horzinek, M. C., & Osterhaus, A. (1994). Modulation of antiviral immune responses by exogenous cytokines: effects of tumour necrosis factor-α interleukin-1 α, interleukin-2 and interferon-γ on the immunogenicity of an inactivated rabies vaccine. Journal of General Virology, 75, 55–63. Retrieved from