Opioid use disorders (OUDs) are a public health concern in the United States and worldwide. Current medications for OUDs may trigger side effects and are often heavily regulated. A novel treatment strategy to be used alone or in combination with existing medications is active immunization with antiopioid vaccines, which stimulate production of opioid-specific Abs that bind to the target drug and prevent its distribution to the brain. Although antiopioid vaccines have shown promising preclinical efficacy, prior clinical evaluations of vaccines targeting stimulants indicate that efficacy is limited to a subset of subjects who achieve optimal Ab responses. We have previously reported that depletion of IL-4 with a mAb increased opioid-specific IgG2a and total IgG, and it increased the number of germinal centers and germinal center T follicular helper cells in response to antiopioid vaccines via type I IL-4 signaling. The current study further investigates the mechanisms associated with IL-4–mediated increases in efficacy and whether IL-4 depletion affects specific processes involved in germinal center formation, including affinity maturation, class switching, and plasma cell differentiation in mice. Additionally, results demonstrate that preimmunization production of IL-4 after ex vivo whole blood stimulation predicted in vivo vaccine-induced Ab titers in outbred mice. Such mechanistic studies are critical for rational design of next-generation vaccine formulations, and they support the use of IL-4 as a predictive biomarker in ongoing OUD vaccine clinical studies.

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