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NOD/scid IL-2Rgnull mice: a preclinical model system to evaluate human dendritic cell-based vaccine strategies in vivo

Stefani Spranger1, Bernhard Frankenberger1 and Dolores J Schendel12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Molecular Immunology, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Marchioninistrasse 25, 81377 Munich, Germany

2 Clinical Cooperation Group "Immune Monitoring", German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Marchioninistrasse 25, 81377 Munich, Germany

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-30

Published: 25 February 2012



To date very few systems have been described for preclinical investigations of human cellular therapeutics in vivo. However, the ability to carry out comparisons of new cellular vaccines in vivo would be of substantial interest for design of clinical studies. Here we describe a humanized mouse model to assess the efficacy of various human dendritic cell (DC) preparations. Two reconstitution regimes of NOD/scid IL2Rgnull (NSG) mice with adult human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were evaluated for engraftment using 4-week and 9-week schedules. This led to selection of a simple and rapid protocol for engraftment and vaccine evaluation that encompassed 4 weeks.


NSG recipients of human PBMC were engrafted over 14 days and then vaccinated twice with autologous DC via intravenous injection. Three DC vaccine formulations were compared that varied generation time in vitro (3 days versus 7 days) and signals for maturation (with or without Toll-like receptor (TLR)3 and TLR7/8 agonists) using MART-1 as a surrogate antigen, by electroporating mature DC with in vitro transcribed RNA encoding full length protein. After two weekly vaccinations, the splenocyte populations containing human lymphocytes were recovered 7 days later and assessed for MART-1-specific immune responses using MHC-multimer-binding assays and functional assessment of specific killing of melanoma tumor cell lines.


Human monocyte-derived DC generated in vitro in 3 days induced better MART-1-specific immune responses in the autologous donor T cells present in the humanized NSG mice. Moreover, consistent with our in vitro observations, vaccination using mature DC activated with TLR3 and TLR7/8 agonists resulted in enhanced immune responses in vivo. These findings led to a ranking of the DC vaccine effects in vivo that reflected the hierarchy previously found for these mature DC variations in vitro.


This humanized mouse model system enables comparisons among different DC vaccine types to be rapidly assessed in vivo. In addition, ex vivo analyses of human CD3+ T cells recovered from the spleens of these mice are also possible, including studies on lymphocyte subsets, Th1/Th2 polarization, presence of regulatory T cells and the impact of DC vaccination on their functions.

Antitumor immunity; CD8+ T cells; Dendritic cells; Murine model system; TLR-activation; Vaccination