Formulation and development of cationic liposomes as adjuvants for subunit protein vaccines

  • Malou Henriksen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Liposomes remain at the forefront of vaccine design due to their well documented abilities to act as delivery vehicles and adjuvants. Liposomes have been described to initiate an antigen depot-effect, thereby increasing antigen exposure to circulating antigen-presenting cells. More recently, in-depth reviews have focussed on inherent immunostimulatory abilities of various cationic lipids, the use of which is consequently of interest in the development of subunit protein vaccines which when delivered without an adjuvant are poorly immunogenic. The importance of liposomes for the mediation of an antigen depot-effect was examined by use of a dual-radiolabelling technique thereby allowing simultaneous detection of liposomal and antigenic components and analysis of their pharmacokinetic profile. In addition to investigating the biodistribution of these formulations, their physicochemical properties were analysed and the ability of the various liposome formulations to elicit humoral and cell-mediated immune responses was investigated. Our results show a requirement of cationic charge and medium/strong levels of antigen adsorption to the cationic liposome in order for both a liposome and antigen depot-effect to occur at the injection site. The choice of injection route had little effect on the pharmacokinetics or immunogenicity observed. In vitro, cationic liposomes were more cytotoxic than neutral liposomes due to significantly enhanced levels of cell uptake. With regards to the role of bilayer fluidity, liposomes expressing more rigid bilayers displayed increased retention at the injection site although this did not necessarily result in increased antigen retention. Furthermore, liposome bilayer rigidity did not necessarily correlate with improved immunogenicity. In similar findings, liposome size did not appear to control liposome or antigen retention at the injection site. However, a strong liposome size correlation between splenocyte proliferation and production of IL-10 was noted; specifically immunisation with large liposomes lead to increased levels of splenocyte proliferation coupled with decreased IL-10 production.
Date of Award1 Feb 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYvonne Perrie (Supervisor) & Andrew Devitt (Supervisor)


  • delivery vesicle
  • depot-effect
  • biodistribution
  • tuberculosis
  • immune response

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