The induction of effective cellular and humoral immune responses against protein antigens is of major importance in vaccination strategies against infectious diseases and cancer. Immunization with protein alone in general does not result in efficient induction of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) and antibody responses. Numerous other immunization strategies have been explored. In this review we will discuss a number of lipid-based antigen delivery systems suitable for the induction of CTL responses. These systems comprise reconstituted virus envelopes (virosomes), liposomes, and immune-stimulating complexes (ISCOMs). We will concentrate on delivery of the protein antigen ovalbumin (OVA) since extensive studies with this antigen have been performed for all of the systems discussed, allowing direct comparison of antigen delivery efficiency. Stimulation of CTL activity requires processing of the antigen in the cytosol of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and presentation of antigenic peptides on surface major histocompatibility class I complexes (MHC class I). In vitro, the ability of antigen delivery systems to induce MHC class I presentation indeed correlates with their capacity to deliver antigen to the cytosol of cells. This capacity appears to be less important for the induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vivo. Instead, other properties of the antigen delivery system like activation of APCs and induction of T helper cells play a more prominent role. Fusion-active virosomes appear to be a very potent system for induction of CTL activity, most likely since virosomes combine efficient delivery of antigen with general stimulation of the immune system.

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