Structural perturbation of diphtheria toxoid upon adsorption to aluminium hydroxide adjuvant

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Vaccine, Volume 30, Number 48, pp. 6783-8 (2012)


1873-2518 (Electronic)02

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Aluminium-containing adjuvants are often used to enhance the potency of vaccines. In the present work we studied whether adsorption of diphtheria toxoid to colloidal aluminium hydroxide induces conformational changes of the antigen. Diphtheria toxoid has a high affinity for the aluminium hydroxide particles based on a high adsorption degree, adsorption rate and adsorptive capacity. The conformation and stability of diphtheria toxoid in solution and adsorbed to aluminium hydroxide adjuvant were characterized using five physicochemical techniques: intrinsic and extrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism, infrared spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry. Diphtheria toxoid adsorbed to aluminium hydroxide resulted in a minimal shift of the tryptophan fluorescence spectrum, whereas a large increase in the emission of the Bis-ANS probe was observed, indicating that hydrophobic sites of the protein became accessible due to adsorption. In addition, circular dichroism and infrared spectroscopy revealed that adsorption to aluminium hydroxide caused an increase of beta-sheet content and a decrease of alpha-helix content in diphtheria toxoid. Differential scanning calorimetry demonstrated a major decrease in the enthalpy of denaturation upon adsorption. In conclusion, the adsorption of diphtheria toxoid to aluminium hydroxide adjuvant leads to substantial conformational changes in the antigen. Since physicochemical methods can be used to monitor these conformational changes, these analytical methods might offer a tool in regulatory required vaccine quality control by demonstrating consistency in production.