Cationic liposomes are versatile lipid nanocarriers to improve the pharmacological properties of drug payloads. Recent advantages include the application of their intrinsic immunostimulatory effects to enhance immune activation. Herein, we report for the first time the structural effect of cationic lipids in promoting T cell activation and differentiation in vitro. Two types of cationic liposomes R3C14 and R5C14 were prepared from single type of lipids Arg-C3-Clu2C14 or Arg-C5-Clu2C14, which bear arginine head group and ditetradecyl tails but vary in the carbon number of the spacer in between. Murine CD8 or CD4 T cells were pretreated with 50 μM of each type of liposomes for 2 h, followed by stimulation with anti-CD3/CD28 antibodies for 24 h. In comparison to liposome-untreated T cells, R5C14-pretreatment induced a robust T cell activation (IL-2, CD25+) and differentiation into effector cells (CD44high, CD62Llow), whereas R3C14 did not show comparable effect. Furthermore, a weak activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) was detected in Jurkat-Lucia NFAT cells (InvivoGen), suggesting a potential signaling pathway for the liposomal effect. Although R5C14 liposomes did not activate T cells without subsequent CD3/CD28 stimulation, this study implied a recessive effect of some cationic adjuvant in priming T cells to enhance their responsiveness to antigens.
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