Background: High-level production of heterodimeric p70 interleukin (IL)-12 by myeloid-derived dendritic cells (DCs) requires 2 signals: interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and a maturation signal provided by CD40 ligation (CD40L) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Methods: In the current study we demonstrate that signaling through toll-like receptor (TLR) 8, but not TLR3, TLR2, or TLR4, provides a priming signal to myeloid-derived DC for high IL-12 p70 heterodimer production. Results: All the TLR agonists induced maturation of DC as evidenced by increased expression of CD83, CD80, and CD86. Both IFN-γ and TLR7/8 agonist R848 increased expression of TLR8 in immature monocyte-derived DCs. The combination of TLR7/8 agonist R848 and maturation signals LPS or CD40L induced high-level expression of IL-12p35 and p40 similar to that induced by IFN-γ plus LPS. In contrast, receptor agonists specific for TLR7 did not prime for IL-12 production. The p70 IL-12 produced by the TLR8-primed DC polarized CD4+ T for Th1 cytokine production and induced CD8+ T cells, displaying high functional avidity with enhanced tumor cell recognition. Conclusions: The data suggest that toll 8 receptor agonists are useful for inducing type-1 polarized DCs for vaccine design in treating cancer and infectious disease.
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