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Infection and Immunity


Toxin-coregulated pilin A (TcpA) is the main structural subunit of a type IV bundle-forming pilus of Vibrio cholerae, the cause of cholera. Toxin-coregulated pilus is involved in formation of microcolonies of V. cholerae at the intestinal surface, and strains of V. cholerae deficient in TcpA are attenuated and unable to colonize intestinal surfaces. Anti-TcpA immunity is common in humans recovering from cholera in Bangladesh, and immunization against TcpA is protective in murine V. cholerae models. To evaluate whether transcutaneously applied TcpA is immunogenic, we transcutaneously immunized mice with 100 mug of TcpA or TcpA with an immunoadjuvant (cholera toxin [CT], 50 mug) on days 0, 19, and 40. Mice immunized with TcpA alone did not develop anti-TcpA responses. Mice that received transcutaneously applied TcpA and CT developed prominent anti-TcpA immunoglobulin G (IgG) serum responses but minimal anti-TcpA IgA. Transcutaneous immunization with CT induced prominent IgG and IgA anti-CT serum responses. In an infant mouse model, offspring born to dams transcutaneously immunized either with TcpA and CT or with CT alone were challenged with 10(6) CFU (one 50% lethal dose) wild-type V. cholerae O1 El Tor strain N16961. At 48 h, mice born to females transcutaneously immunized with CT alone had 36% +/- 10% (mean +/- standard error of the mean) survival, while mice born to females transcutaneously immunized with TcpA and CT had 69% +/- 6% survival (P < 0.001). Our results suggest that transcutaneous immunization with TcpA and an immunoadjuvant induces protective anti-TcpA immune responses. Anti-TcpA responses may contribute to an optimal cholera vaccine.