Immune Netw.  2012 Oct;12(5):165-175. 10.4110/in.2012.12.5.165.

Mucosal Immune System and M Cell-targeting Strategies for Oral Mucosal Vaccination

  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and the Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju 561-756, Korea.
  • 2Department of Oral Microbiology and Institute of Oral Bioscience, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju 561-756, Korea.


Vaccination is one of the most effective methods available to prevent infectious diseases. Mucosa, which are exposed to heavy loads of commensal and pathogenic microorganisms, are one of the first areas where infections are established, and therefore have frontline status in immunity, making mucosa ideal sites for vaccine application. Moreover, vaccination through the mucosal immune system could induce effective systemic immune responses together with mucosal immunity in contrast to parenteral vaccination, which is a poor inducer of effective immunity at mucosal surfaces. Among mucosal vaccines, oral mucosal vaccines have the advantages of ease and low cost of vaccine administration. The oral mucosal immune system, however, is generally recognized as poorly immunogenic due to the frequent induction of tolerance against orally-introduced antigens. Consequently, a prerequisite for successful mucosal vaccination is that the orally introduced antigen should be transported across the mucosal surface into the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT). In particular, M cells are responsible for antigen uptake into MALT, and the rapid and effective transcytotic activity of M cells makes them an attractive target for mucosal vaccine delivery, although simple transport of the antigen into M cells does not guarantee the induction of specific immune responses. Consequently, development of mucosal vaccine adjuvants based on an understanding of the biology of M cells has attracted much research interest. Here, we review the characteristics of the oral mucosal immune system and delineate strategies to design effective oral mucosal vaccines with an emphasis on mucosal vaccine adjuvants.


Adjuvant; Complement 5a receptor; Mucosal immune system; Vaccine

MeSH Terms

Communicable Diseases
Immune System
Immunity, Mucosal
Lymphoid Tissue
Mucous Membrane
Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
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