Yields and Immunomodulatory Effects of Pneumococcal Membrane Vesicles Differ with the Bacterial Growth Phase

Abstract Streptococcus pneumoniae infections are a leading cause of death worldwide. Bacterial membrane vesicles (MVs) are promising vaccine candidates because of the antigenic components of their parent microorganisms. Pneumococcal MVs exhibit low toxicity towards several cell lines, but their clinical translation requires a high yield and strong immunogenic effects without compromising immune cell viability. MVs are isolated during either the stationary phase (24 h) or death phase (48 h), and their yields, immunogenicity and cytotoxicity in human primary macrophages and dendritic cells have been investigated. Death-phase vesicles showed higher yields than stationary-phase vesicles. Both vesicle types displayed acceptable compatibility with primary immune cells and several cell lines. Both vesicle types showed comparable uptake and enhanced release of the inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6, from human primary immune cells. Proteomic analysis revealed similarities in vesicular immunogenic proteins such as pneumolysin, pneumococcal surface protein A, and IgA1 protease in both vesicle types, but stationary-phase MVs showed significantly lower autolysin levels than death-phase MVs. Although death-phase vesicles produced higher yields, they lacked superiority to stationary-phase vesicles as vaccine candidates owing to their similar antigenic protein cargo and comparable uptake into primary human immune cells.