Negatively charged liposomes, proposed as potential vaccine adjuvants, have been extensively studied in association with various antigens. In the present study, we investigated the adjuvanicity of negatively charged liposomes to enhance the protective immunity of membrane antigens of Leishmania donovani promastigotes (LAg). In comparison to the control mice immunized with phosphate-buffered saline and empty liposomes, immunization with free LAg led to significant levels of protection against infection with virulent promastigotes. Encapsulation of LAg in liposomes also induced effective protection. However, the level of protection by LAg–liposome was not significantly different from that induced by free LAg. Investigation of the immune responses showed, in contrast to free LAg, that immunization with LAg–liposome elicited strong antibody responses. IgG isotype analysis revealed the presence of all 4 isotypes. However, the titer of IgG1 was significantly higher than IgG2a, IgG2b, and IgG3. Following infection, stimulation of IgG and IgG isotypes did not differ in the different immunization groups. Delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) analysis after immunization showed significant induction by LAg and LAg–liposomes, in comparison to controls. With infection, again, the level of DTH in all the groups became almost comparable. Stimulation of insufficient cellular response, as reflected by DTH and potentiation of IgG1 over IgG2a, IgG2b, and IgG3 suggest a dominance of Th2 response with this liposome–antigen formulation, resulting in weak protection against visceral leishmaniasis.

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