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To examine the widely accepted dogma that the eye is an immune-privileged organ that can suppress antigen immunogenicity, we explored systemic immune responses to a model vaccine antigen (tetanus toxoid) delivered to six compartments of the rodent eye (ocular surface, corneal stroma, anterior chamber, subconjunctival space, suprachoroidal space, vitreous body). We discovered that antigens delivered to corneal stroma induced enhanced, rather than suppressed, antigen-specific immune responses, which were 18- to 30-fold greater than conventional intramuscular injection and comparable to intramuscular vaccination with alum adjuvant. Systemic immune responses to antigen delivered to the other ocular compartments were much weaker. The enhanced systemic immune responses after intrastromal injection were related to a sequence of events involving the formation of an antigen "depot" in the avascular stroma, infiltration of antigen-presenting cells, up-regulation of MHC class II and costimulatory molecules CD80/CD86, and induction of lymphangiogenesis in the corneal stroma facilitating sustained presentation of antigen to the lymphatic system. These enhanced immune responses in corneal stroma suggest new approaches to medical interventions for ocular immune diseases and vaccination methods. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Dengning Xia, Randall Toy, Pallab Pradhan, Amir Hejri, Jeremy Chae, Hans E Grossniklaus, Claus Cursiefen, Krishnendu Roy, Mark R Prausnitz. Enhanced immune responses to vaccine antigens in the corneal stroma. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society. 2023 Jan;353:434-446

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PMID: 36462639

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