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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Short paper

DNA-vaccination via tattooing induces stronger humoral and cellular immune responses than intramuscular delivery supported by molecular adjuvants

Dana Pokorna1, Ivonne Rubio2 and Martin Müller2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Experimental Virology, Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Prague, Czech Republic

2 Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, Germany

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Genetic Vaccines and Therapy 2008, 6:4  doi:10.1186/1479-0556-6-4

Published: 7 February 2008


Tattooing is one of a number of DNA delivery methods which results in an efficient expression of an introduced gene in the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin. The tattoo procedure causes many minor mechanical injuries followed by hemorrhage, necrosis, inflammation and regeneration of the skin and thus non-specifically stimulates the immune system. DNA vaccines delivered by tattooing have been shown to induce higher specific humoral and cellular immune responses than intramuscularly injected DNA. In this study, we focused on the comparison of DNA immunization protocols using different routes of administrations of DNA (intradermal tattoo versus intramuscular injection) and molecular adjuvants (cardiotoxin pre-treatment or GM-CSF DNA co-delivery). For this comparison we used the major capsid protein L1 of human papillomavirus type 16 as a model antigen. L1-specific immune responses were detected after three and four immunizations with 50 μg plasmid DNA. Cardiotoxin pretreatment or GM-CSF DNA co-delivery substantially enhanced the efficacy of DNA vaccine delivered intramuscularly by needle injection but had virtually no effect on the intradermal tattoo vaccination. The promoting effect of both adjuvants was more pronounced after three rather than four immunizations. However, three DNA tattoo immunizations without any adjuvant induced significantly higher L1-specific humoral immune responses than three or even four intramuscular DNA injections supported by molecular adjuvants. Tattooing also elicited significantly higher L1-specific cellular immune responses than intramuscularly delivered DNA in combination with adjuvants. In addition, the lymphocytes of mice treated with the tattoo device proliferated more strongly after mitogen stimulation suggesting the presence of inflammatory responses after tattooing. The tattoo delivery of DNA is a cost-effective method that may be used in laboratory conditions when more rapid and more robust immune responses are required.