The potent regulatory properties of NKT cells render this subset of lipid-specific T cells a promising target for immunotherapeutic interventions. The marine sponge glycolipid α-galactosylceramide (αGalCer) is the prototypic NKT cell agonist, which elicits this function when bound to CD1d. However, our understanding of the in vivo properties of NKT cell agonists and the host factors that control their bioactivity remains very limited. In this report, we isolated the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) from mouse serum as an αGalCer-binding protein that modulates the induction of key effector functions of NKT cells in vivo. FAAH bound αGalCer in vivo and in vitro and was required for the efficient targeting of lipid antigens for CD1d presentation. Immunization of Faah-deficient mice with αGalCer resulted in a reduced systemic cytokine production, but enhanced expansion of splenic NKT cells. This distinct NKT response conferred a drastically increased adjuvant effect and strongly promoted protective CTL responses. Thus, our findings identify not only the presence of FAAH in normal mouse serum, but also its critical role in the tuning of immune responses to lipid antigens by orchestrating their transport and targeting for NKT cell activation. Our results suggest that the serum transport of lipid antigens directly shapes the quality of NKT cell responses, which could potentially be modulated in support of novel vaccination strategies.
Stefan Freigang, Victoria Zadorozhny, Michele K. McKinney, Philippe Krebs, Rana Herro, Joanna Pawlak, Lisa Kain, Nicolas Schrantz, Kim Masuda, Yang Liu, Paul B. Savage, Albert Bendelac, Benjamin F. Cravatt, Luc Teyton