Carbon nanotubes are novel technological tools with multiple applications. The interaction between such nanoparticles and living organisms is nowadays a matter of keen research by academic and private institutions. In this study, carbon nanotube constructs were investigated as delivery vehicles for immunostimulation and induction of the secondary immune response to a small organic molecule, namely, a hapten. Two types of nanoconstructs were prepared: on one hand, carbon nanotubes carrying a protein bioconjugate of a hapten covalently linked to the carbon surface, and on the other hand, covalent carbon nanotube constructs of the same model chemical compound without the carrier protein. Nanotube vehicles carrying a hapten-protein bioconjugate were demonstrated to stimulate the immune system and to induce a strong primary immune response against the hapten with as low as 0.1 μg of the model chemical. The influence of the different elements of those nanoconstructs over the immune response was investigated to better understand the molecular mechanisms that are involved. As expected, the presence of the carrier protein was shown to be necessary in order to trigger the immune response. Interestingly, we found that a remarkable secondary immune response to the model organic compound occurred in the absence of a carrier protein. Additionally, a satisfactory adjuvant effect of carbon nanotubes was observed and a potent immune response was elicited without employing an oil-based adjuvant.
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