IL-12 is a potent neonatal vaccine adjuvant

Bernard P. Arulanandam, Victor H. Van Cleave, Dennis W. Metzger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Neonatal animals show generally poor responsiveness to foreign antigens and are known to display polarized expression of Th2-like cytokines and antibody responses. We now report that newborn mice display a reduction in peripheral expression of the Th1-inducing cytokine, IL-12. Attempts to overcome this decrease by immunization and treatment with IL-12 within 24 h of birth resulted in elevated levels of IFN-γ and IL-10 mRNA in the spleens of mice compared to animals exposed to antigen only. Moreover, such animals showed dramatic enhancement of IgG2a and IgG2b antibody levels upon adult challenge compared to mice primed with antigen alone. These effects appeared to be due to induction of neonatal B cell memory. IgG1 antibody levels, a measure of Th2 activity, were unaffected or even somewhat enhanced by neonatal IL-12 treatment. Taken together, these results provide evidence that IL-12 administration induces a Th1-like cytokine response in newborns and causes priming for heightened memory antibody responses in vivo. Our findings suggest the use of IL-12 as a vaccine adjuvant in neonates for inducing protection against common childhood pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-264
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjuvant
  • IL-12
  • Newborn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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