Molecular DNA dendron vaccines

Max E. Distler, John P. Cavaliere, Michelle H. Teplensky, Michael Evangelopoulos, Chad A. Mirkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A foundational principle of rational vaccinology is that vaccine structure plays a critical role in determining therapeutic efficacy, but in order to establish fundamental, effective, and translatable vaccine design parameters, a highly modular and well-defined platform is required. Herein, we report a DNA dendron vaccine, a molecular nanostructure that consists of an adjuvant DNA strand that splits into multiple DNA branches with a varied number of conjugated peptide antigens that is capable of dendritic cell uptake, immune activation, and potent cancer killing. We leveraged the well-defined architecture and chemical modularity of the DNA dendron to study structure-function relationships that dictate molecular vaccine efficacy, particularly regarding the delivery of immune-activating DNA sequences and antigenic peptides on a single chemical construct. We investigated how adjuvant and antigen placement and number impact dendron cellular uptake and immune activation, in vitro. These parameters also played a significant role in raising a potent and specific immune response against target cancer cells. By gaining this structural understanding of molecular vaccines, DNA dendrons successfully treated a mouse cervical human papillomavirus TC-1 cancer model, in vivo, where the vaccine structure defined its efficacy; the top-performing design effectively reduced tumor burden (<150 mm3 through day 30) and maintained 100% survival through 44 d after tumor inoculation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2215091120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 31 2023


  • DNA dendrons
  • DNA therapeutics
  • vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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