Polyclonal sera obtained from African children with acute measles were used to screen a panel of 15-mer overlapping peptides representing the sequence of measles virus (MV) fusion (F) protein. An immunodominant antigenic region from the F protein (p32; amino acids 388 to 402) was found to represent an amino acid sequence within the highly conserved cysteine-rich domain of the F protein of paramyxoviruses. Epitope mapping of this peptide indicated that the complete 15-amino-acid sequence was necessary for high-affinity interaction with anti-MV antibodies. Immunization of two strains of mice with the p32 peptide indicated that it was immunogenic and could induce antipeptide antibodies which cross-reacted with and neutralized MV infectivity in vitro. Moreover, passive transfer of antipeptide antibodies conferred significant protection against fatal rodent-adapted MV-induced encephalitis in susceptible mice. These results indicate that this epitope represents a candidate for inclusion in a future peptide vaccine for measles.
The recent identification of a large array of different vaccinia virus (VACV)-derived CD8+ T cell epitopes offers a unique opportunity to systematically analyze the correlation between protective efficacy and variables such as kinetics of expression and function of viral proteins, binding affinity to MHC molecules, immunogenicity and viral antigen processing/presentation. In the current study, 49 different H-2b restricted epitopes were tested for their ability to protect peptide-immunized C57Bl/6 mice from lethal i.n. challenge with VACV. The epitopes varied greatly in their ability to confer protection, ranging from complete protection with minimal disease to no protection at all. The function or kinetics of the viral antigen expression did not correlate with protective efficacy. However, binding affinity partially predicted protection efficacy and ultimately epitope immunogenicity and recognition of infected cells offered the best correlation.
CD8+ T cell epitopes; immunogenicity; intranasal challenge model; Protection efficacy VACV
We have recently cloned a new protein, recombinant P40 (rP40). When tested in vivo after conjugation to a B-cell epitope, rP40 induces an important antibody response without the need for adjuvant. To characterize its potency, this carrier protein was coupled to a peptide derived from respiratory syncytial virus attachment G protein (G1′). After immunization of mice with the rP40-G1′ conjugate, strong antipeptide antibodies were detected, whereas peptide alone was not immunogenic. To emphasize the carrier properties of rP40, a polysaccharide derived from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was coupled to it. Immunoglobulin G responses against the Hib polysaccharide were observed after coupling to rP40. Interestingly, an antipeptide antibody response was observed despite preexisting anti-rP40 antibodies generated by preimmunization with rP40. In addition, rP40 compares well with the reference carrier protein, tetanus toxoid (TT), since antibody responses of equal intensity were observed when a peptide or a polysaccharide was coupled to TT and rP40. Moreover, rP40 had advantages compared to TT; e.g., it induced a mixed Th1/Th2 response, whereas TT induced only a Th2 profile. Together, the results indicate that rP40 is a novel carrier protein with potential for use as an alternative carrier for human vaccination.
To better support the design of peptide-based vaccines, refinement of methods to predict B-cell epitopes necessitates meaningful benchmarking against empirical data on the cross-reactivity of polyclonal antipeptide antibodies with proteins, such that the positive data reflect functionally relevant cross-reactivity (which is consistent with antibody-mediated change in protein function) and the negative data reflect genuine absence of cross-reactivity (rather than apparent absence of cross-reactivity due to artifactual masking of B-cell epitopes in immunoassays). These data are heterogeneous in view of multiple factors that complicate B-cell epitope prediction, notably physicochemical factors that define key structural differences between immunizing peptides and their cognate proteins (e.g., unmatched electrical charges along the peptide-protein sequence alignments). If the data are partitioned with respect to these factors, iterative parallel benchmarking against the resulting subsets of data provides a basis for systematically identifying and addressing the limitations of methods for B-cell epitope prediction as applied to vaccine design.
The recognition of specific epitopes on allergens by antibodies and T cells is a key element in allergic processes. Analysis of epitope data may be of interest for basic immunopathology or for potential application in diagnostics or immunotherapy. The Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) is a freely available repository of epitope data from infectious disease agents, as well as epitopes defined for allergy, autoimmunity, and transplantation. The IEDB curates the experiments associated with each epitope and thus provides a variety of different ways to search the data. This review aims to demonstrate the utility of the IEDB and its query strategies, including searching by epitope structure (peptidic/nonpeptidic), by assay methodology, by host, by the allergen itself, or by the organism from which the allergen was derived. Links to tools for visualization of 3-D structures, epitope prediction, and analyses of B and T cell reactivity by host response frequency score are also highlighted.
Allergy; Allergen; Epitope; Database
Bactericidal antibodies directed against surface loops of class 1 outer membrane proteins play a crucial role in protection against meningitis and sepsis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. So far, all efforts to obtain protective antibodies against these apparently conformational epitopes by using linear peptide analogs have been in vain. In this study, conjugates of head-to-tail cyclic peptides encompassing the predicted top of a protective surface loop were used for immunization. A series of 18 cyclic peptides with a ring size ranging from 7 to 17 residues, conjugated to tetanus toxoid, was investigated. Antipeptide and anti-whole-cell immunoglobulin G (IgG) titers elicited by the conjugates were determined. Conjugates of three peptides, containing 14, 15, and 17 amino acid residues (peptides 7, 12, and 13, respectively), induced an anti-whole-cell titer when Quillaja saponin A was used as the adjuvant. When alum was used as the adjuvant, the conjugate of peptide 12 did not elicit an anti-whole-cell response. From the Quillaja saponin A group, some of the sera obtained with conjugates of peptides 7 and 12 and all sera obtained with the peptide 13 conjugate were bactericidal in vitro. None of the sera evoked with alum as the adjuvant showed bactericidal activity. Nonbactericidal sera contained IgG1 primarily, whereas bactericidal sera showed significant titers of IgG2a and IgG2b. Class 1 protein-derived synthetic cyclic peptides which are capable of eliciting bactericidal antibodies, such as peptide 13 derived from meningococcal strain H44/76, represent potential candidates for a (semi)synthetic vaccine against meningococcal disease.
The binding of peptide fragments of extracellular peptides to class II MHC is a crucial event in the adaptive immune response. Each MHC allotype generally binds a distinct subset of peptides and the enormous number of possible peptide epitopes prevents their complete experimental characterization. Computational methods can utilize the limited experimental data to predict the binding affinities of peptides to class II MHC.
We have developed the Regularized Thermodynamic Average, or RTA, method for predicting the affinities of peptides binding to class II MHC. RTA accounts for all possible peptide binding conformations using a thermodynamic average and includes a parameter constraint for regularization to improve accuracy on novel data. RTA was shown to achieve higher accuracy, as measured by AUC, than SMM-align on the same data for all 17 MHC allotypes examined. RTA also gave the highest accuracy on all but three allotypes when compared with results from 9 different prediction methods applied to the same data. In addition, the method correctly predicted the peptide binding register of 17 out of 18 peptide-MHC complexes. Finally, we found that suboptimal peptide binding registers, which are often ignored in other prediction methods, made significant contributions of at least 50% of the total binding energy for approximately 20% of the peptides.
The RTA method accurately predicts peptide binding affinities to class II MHC and accounts for multiple peptide binding registers while reducing overfitting through regularization. The method has potential applications in vaccine design and in understanding autoimmune disorders. A web server implementing the RTA prediction method is available at http://bordnerlab.org/RTA/.
The use of polyclonal antibodies to screen random peptide phage display libraries often results in the recognition of a large number of peptides that mimic linear epitopes on various proteins. There appears to be a bias in the use of this technology toward the selection of peptides that mimic linear epitopes. In many circumstances the correct folding of a protein immunogen is required for conferring protection. The use of random peptide phage display libraries to identify peptide mimics of conformational epitopes in these cases requires a strategy for overcoming this bias. Conformational epitopes on the hydatid vaccine EG95 have been shown to result in protective immunity in sheep, whereas linear epitopes are not protective. In this paper we describe a strategy that results in the purification of polyclonal antibodies directed against conformational epitopes while eliminating antibodies directed against linear epitopes. These affinity purified antibodies were then used to select a peptide from a random peptide phage display library that has the capacity to mimic conformational epitopes on EG95. This peptide was subsequently used to affinity purify monospecific antibodies against EG95.
GST, glutathione S-transferase; HRP, horseradish peroxidise; IPTG, isopropyl-1-thio-β-galactoside; MBP, maltose binding protein; PBST, phosphate buffered saline-Tween®; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; RPPD, random peptide phage display; SMPBS, skim milk phosphate buffered saline; TMB, tetra-methylbenzidine; Phage display; Monospecific antibodies; Echinococcus granulosus
During maturing antibody responses the increase in affinity for target antigens is achieved by genetic diversification of antibody genes followed by selection for improved binding. The effect this process has on the specificity of antibody for variants of the antigen is not well-defined, despite the potential role of antibody diversification in generating enhanced protection against pathogen escape mutants, or novel specificities after vaccination. To investigate this, a library of single amino-acid substitution epitope variants has been screened with serum obtained at different time-points after immunization of mice with the HIV gp41 peptide epitope ELDKWA. The serum IgG response is shown to mature and increase affinity for ELDKWA, and the titre and affinity of IgG against most epitope variants tested increases. Furthermore there is a bias towards high affinity serum IgG binding to variant epitopes with conservative substitutions, although underlying this trend there is also significant binding to many epitopes with non-conservative substitutions. Thus, maturation of the antibody response to a single epitope results in a broadening of the high-affinity response toward variant epitopes. This implies that many pathogen epitope escape variants that could manifest as single amino-acid substitutions would not emerge by escaping immune surveillance.
ESAT-6 is an important T-cell antigen recognized by protective T cells in animal models of infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with overlapping peptides spanning the sequence of ESAT-6, monoclonal antibody HYB76-8 reacted with two peptides in the N-terminal region of the molecule. Assays with synthetic truncated peptides allowed a precise mapping of the epitope to the residues EQQWNFAGIEAAA at positions 3 to 15. Hydrophilicity plots revealed one hydrophilic area at the N terminus and two additional areas further along the polypeptide chain. Antipeptide antibodies were generated by immunization with synthetic 8-mer peptides corresponding to these two regions coupled to keyhole limpet hemocyanin. Prolonged immunization with a 23-mer peptide (positions 40 to 62) resulted in the formation of antibodies reacting with the peptide as well as native ESAT-6. A double-antibody ELISA was then developed with monoclonal antibody HYB76-8 as a capture antibody, antigen for testing in the second layer, and antipeptide antibody in the third layer. The assay was suitable for quantification of ESAT-6 in M. tuberculosis antigen preparations, showing no reactivity with M. bovis BCG Tokyo culture fluid, used as a negative control, or with MPT64 or antigen 85B, previously shown to cross-react with HYB76-8. This capture ELISA permitted the identification of ESAT-6 expression from vaccinia virus constructs containing the esat-6 gene; this expression could not be identified by standard immunoblotting.
By using the published amino acid sequence for mature outer membrane protein F of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a computer-assisted analysis was performed to identify sites with potential as surface-exposed, antigenic regions located throughout the length of the protein molecule. Synthetic peptides 13 to 15 amino acid residues in length were synthesized for 10 such regions. Mice were immunized with each of the 10 synthetic peptides conjugated to keyhole limpet hemocyanin. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of the antisera was performed by using each of the synthetic peptides as the ELISA antigen to verify that immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies capable of reacting with the peptide used as immunogen were elicited by each peptide. Each of the antipeptide antisera was screened for the presence of IgG antibodies that could bind to the surface of intact cells of strains representing the seven heterologous Fisher-Devlin immunotypes of P. aeruginosa by use of an ELISA with whole cells of the various strains as the ELISA antigen. Three peptides elicited antibodies capable of reacting with whole cells of all seven immunotype strains. Peptide 10, corresponding to amino acid residues 305 to 318, elicited whole-cell-reactive antibodies at high titers. Peptide 9, corresponding to amino acid residues 261 to 274, elicited whole-cell-reactive antibodies at more intermediate titers. Peptide 7, corresponding to amino acid residues 219 to 232, elicited such antibodies only at low titers. The carboxy-terminal portion of the mature protein appears to be the immunodominant portion. In particular, peptides 10 (NATAEGRAINRRVE) and 9 (TDAYNQKLSERRAN) appear to have potential for use as immunogens in a synthetic vaccine for immunoprophylaxis against infections caused by P. aeruginosa. Antisera from mice immunized with either peptide 9 or 10 mediated opsonophagocytic uptake by human polymorphonuclear leukocytes of wild-type cells of P. aeruginosa but exhibited no opsonic activity against a protein F-deficient mutant of P. aeruginosa.
A number of antibodies generated during human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection have been cloned by the phage library approach. Antibodies reactive with an immunodominant epitope on the F glycoprotein of this virus have a high affinity for affinity-purified F antigen. These antibodies, however, have a much lower affinity for mature F glycoprotein on the surface of infected cells and are nonneutralizing. In contrast, a potent neutralizing antibody has a high affinity for mature F protein but a much lower affinity for purified F protein or F protein in viral lysates. The data indicate that at least two F protein immunogens are produced during natural RSV infection: immature F, found in viral lysates, and mature F, found on infected cells or virions. Binding studies with polyclonal human immunoglobulin G suggest that the antibody responses to the two immunogens are of similar magnitudes. Competitive binding studies suggest that overlap between the responses is relatively limited. A mature envelope with an antigenic configuration different from that of the immature envelope has an evolutionary advantage in that the infecting virus is less subject to neutralization by the humoral response to the immature envelope that inevitably arises following lysis of infected cells. Subunit vaccines may be at a disadvantage because they most often resemble immature envelope molecules and ignore this aspect of viral evasion.
A nested set of 11 overlapping synthetic peptides covering the entire sequence of rubella virus capsid protein was synthesized, purified, and tested against human rubella virus-specific T-cell lines and rubella virus-seropositive sera. T-cell lines derived from four donors responded strongly to four synthetic peptides containing residues 96 to 123, 119 to 152, 205 to 233, and 255 to 280. Only one peptide (residues 255 to 280) was recognized by all four T-cell lines. Two human immunodominant linear B-cell epitopes were mapped to residues 1 to 30 and 96 to 123 by using peptide-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. All 11 synthetic peptides were highly immunogenic and induced strong antibody responses in rabbits against the respective immunized peptides. Seven of the 11 rabbit antipeptide antisera (anti-1-30, -74-100, -96-123, -119-152, -205-233, -231-257, and -255-280) specifically recognized the capsid protein on immunoblots. Identification of these T- and B-cell epitopes represents the first step toward rational design of synthetic vaccines against rubella.
The immune epitope database analysis resource (IEDB-AR: http://tools.iedb.org) is a collection of tools for prediction and analysis of molecular targets of T- and B-cell immune responses (i.e. epitopes). Since its last publication in the NAR webserver issue in 2008, a new generation of peptide:MHC binding and T-cell epitope predictive tools have been added. As validated by different labs and in the first international competition for predicting peptide:MHC-I binding, their predictive performances have improved considerably. In addition, a new B-cell epitope prediction tool was added, and the homology mapping tool was updated to enable mapping of discontinuous epitopes onto 3D structures. Furthermore, to serve a wider range of users, the number of ways in which IEDB-AR can be accessed has been expanded. Specifically, the predictive tools can be programmatically accessed using a web interface and can also be downloaded as software packages.
Using delayed-rectifier potassium channels as examples, we have designed two specific blockers by generating specific antipeptide antibodies to epitopes in the external vestibules of two channel proteins, Kv1.2 and Kv3.1. These antibodies reduced whole-cell Kv1.2 or Kv3.1 currents in transfected cells and the effect was blocked by the corresponding peptide antigen, but not by control peptides. A control antibody had little effect on Kv1.2 currents and the Kv1.2 blocker antibody had limited effect on other related potassium currents. Furthermore, the Kv1.2 blocking antibody inhibited dendrotoxin binding to Kv1.2 channel proteins in transfected cells. Moreover, using the Kv1.2 blocker antibody, we determined the presence and relative contribution of endogenous Kv1.2 to the overall endogenous K+ currents in NG108 neuronal cells. This guided design of specific channel blockers will facilitate future physiological studies on ion channel functions.
ion channels; antibody; inhibitor; neurotoxin
Ligand-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of the human colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF-1R) could involve either an intra- or intermolecular mechanism. We therefore examined the ability of a CSF-1R carboxy-terminal truncation mutant to phosphorylate a kinase-defective receptor, CSF-1R[met 616], that contains a methionine-for-lysine substitution at its ATP-binding site. By using an antipeptide serum that specifically reacts with epitopes deleted from the enzymatically competent truncation mutant, cross-phosphorylation of CSF-1R[met 616] on tyrosine was demonstrated, both in immune-complex kinase reactions and in intact cells stimulated with CSF-1. Both in vitro and in vivo, CSF-1R[met 616] was phosphorylated on tryptic peptides identical to those derived from wild-type CSF-1R, suggesting that receptor phosphorylation on tyrosine can proceed via an intermolecular interaction between receptor monomers. When expressed alone, CSF-1R[met 616] did not undergo ligand-induced down modulation, but its phosphorylation in cells coexpressing the kinase-active truncation mutant accelerated its degradation.
Conventional strategies of viral peptide immunizations often elicit low-affinity antibody responses and have limited ability to elicit immune responses in outbred animals of diverse major histocompatibility (MHC) haplotypes. This genetically restricted T-cell-stimulatory activity of peptides is a serious obstacle to vaccine design. However, the use of promiscuous T-cell epitopes may circumvent this problem. Promiscuous T-cell epitopes from tetanus toxin (amino acids [aa] 580 to 599) and the measles virus F protein (aa 288 to 302) that bind to several isotypic and allotypic forms of human MHC class II molecules have been identified and have been used in highly immunogenic constructs to overcome haplotype-restricted immune responses. Chimeric and beta-template peptide constructs incorporating known human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) B- and T-cell epitopes from the surface envelope protein gp46 (SP2 [aa 86 to 107] and SP4a [aa 190 to 209]) and promiscuous T-cell peptides were synthesized, and their immunogenicities were evaluated in both rabbits and mouse strains of divergent haplotypes (C3H/HeJ [H-2k], C57BL/6 [H-2b], and BALB/c [H-2d]). In addition, peptide preparations were structurally characterized by analytical high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and circular dichroism. In contrast to their linear forms, the chimeric constructs of both the SP2 and SP4a epitopes displayed alpha-helical secondary structures. Immunogenicity of the peptide constructs was evaluated by direct and competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA), as well as by radioimmunoprecipitation, syncytium inhibition, and antigen-induced lymphocyte proliferation assays. Immunization with the SP4a peptide without conjugation to a carrier protein produced antibodies specific for SP4a in two mouse strains (C3H/HeJ and C57BL/6). However, BALB/c mice failed to respond to the peptide, indicating that the T-cell epitope of the SP4a sequence is MHC restricted. In contrast, the chimeric constructs MVF-SP2 and SP4a-measles virus F protein were highly immunogenic, producing elevated ELISA titers after only two immunizations. Elicited antibodies recognized native forms of gp46 in ELISAs and radioimmunoprecipitation assays, as well as inhibited HTLV-1-mediated syncytium formation. In addition, chimeric constructs were effective at induction of lymphocyte proliferation to the T-cell epitope, SP4a, in each strain of immunized mice. Our data demonstrate that the antibody response to retroviral peptides is enhanced by promiscuous peptide constructs, in part because of the ability of such constructs to promote appropriate secondary structural forms of viral epitopes. In addition, these constructs promote virus-specific helper T-cell responses, thereby overcoming genetically restricted immune responses to the synthetic peptides.
Motivation: MHC:peptide binding plays a central role in activating the immune surveillance. Computational approaches to determine T-cell epitopes restricted to any given major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule are of special practical value in the development of for instance vaccines with broad population coverage against emerging pathogens. Methods have recently been published that are able to predict peptide binding to any human MHC class I molecule. In contrast to conventional allele-specific methods, these methods do allow for extrapolation to uncharacterized MHC molecules. These pan-specific human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) predictors have not previously been compared using independent evaluation sets.
Result: A diverse set of quantitative peptide binding affinity measurements was collected from Immune Epitope database (IEDB), together with a large set of HLA class I ligands from the SYFPEITHI database. Based on these datasets, three different pan-specific HLA web-accessible predictors NetMHCpan, adaptive double threading (ADT) and kernel-based inter-allele peptide binding prediction system (KISS) were evaluated. The performance of the pan-specific predictors was also compared with a well performing allele-specific MHC class I predictor, NetMHC, as well as a consensus approach integrating the predictions from the NetMHC and NetMHCpan methods.
Conclusions: The benchmark demonstrated that pan-specific methods do provide accurate predictions also for previously uncharacterized MHC molecules. The NetMHCpan method trained to predict actual binding affinities was consistently top ranking both on quantitative (affinity) and binary (ligand) data. However, the KISS method trained to predict binary data was one of the best performing methods when benchmarked on binary data. Finally, a consensus method integrating predictions from the two best performing methods was shown to improve the prediction accuracy.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
IEDB-3D is the 3D structural component of the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) available via the ‘Browse by 3D Structure’ page at http://www.iedb.org. IEDB-3D catalogs B- and T-cell epitopes and Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) ligands for which 3D structures of complexes with antibodies, T-cell receptors or MHC molecules are available in the Protein Data Bank (PDB). Journal articles that are primary citations of PDB structures and that define immune epitopes are curated within IEDB as any other reference along with accompanying functional assays and immunologically relevant information. For each curated structure, IEDB-3D provides calculated data on intermolecular contacts and interface areas and includes an application, EpitopeViewer, to visualize the structures. IEDB-3D is fully embedded within IEDB, thus allowing structural data, both curated and calculated, and all accompanying information to be queried using multiple search interfaces. These include queries for epitopes recognized in different pathogens, eliciting different functional immune responses, and recognized by different components of the immune system. The query results can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel format, or the entire database, together with structural data both curated and calculated, can be downloaded in either XML or MySQL formats.
Understanding antibody function is often enhanced by knowledge of the specific binding epitope. Here, we describe a computer algorithm that permits epitope prediction based on a collection of random peptide epitopes (mimotopes) isolated by antibody affinity purification. We applied this methodology to the prediction of epitopes for five monoclonal antibodies against the West Nile virus (WNV) E protein, two of which exhibit therapeutic activity in vivo. This strategy was validated by comparison of our results with existing F(ab)-E protein crystal structures and mutational analysis by yeast surface display. We demonstrate that by combining the results of the mimotope method with our data from mutational analysis, epitopes could be predicted with greater certainty. The two methods displayed great complementarity as the mutational analysis facilitated epitope prediction when the results with the mimotope method were equivocal and the mimotope method revealed a broader number of residues within the epitope than the mutational analysis. Our results demonstrate that the combination of these two prediction strategies provides a robust platform for epitope characterization.
Epitope mapping; Monoclonal antibody; Phage display; Neutralization; Flavivirus
A hallmark of T cell–dependent immune responses is the progressive increase in the ability of serum antibodies to bind antigen and provide immune protection. Affinity maturation of the antibody response is thought to be connected with the preferential survival of germinal centre (GC) B cells that have acquired increased affinity for antigen via somatic hypermutation of their immunoglobulin genes. However, the mechanisms that drive affinity maturation remain obscure because of the difficulty in tracking the affinity-based selection of GC B cells and their differentiation into plasma cells. We describe a powerful new model that allows these processes to be followed as they occur in vivo. In contrast to evidence from in vitro systems, responding GC B cells do not undergo plasma cell differentiation stochastically. Rather, only GC B cells that have acquired high affinity for the immunizing antigen form plasma cells. Affinity maturation is therefore driven by a tightly controlled mechanism that ensures only antibodies with the greatest possibility of neutralizing foreign antigen are produced. Because the body can sustain only limited numbers of plasma cells, this “quality control” over plasma cell differentiation is likely critical for establishing effective humoral immunity.
NetMHC-3.0 is trained on a large number of quantitative peptide data using both affinity data from the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource (IEDB) and elution data from SYFPEITHI. The method generates high-accuracy predictions of major histocompatibility complex (MHC): peptide binding. The predictions are based on artificial neural networks trained on data from 55 MHC alleles (43 Human and 12 non-human), and position-specific scoring matrices (PSSMs) for additional 67 HLA alleles. As only the MHC class I prediction server is available, predictions are possible for peptides of length 8–11 for all 122 alleles. artificial neural network predictions are given as actual IC50 values whereas PSSM predictions are given as a log-odds likelihood scores. The output is optionally available as download for easy post-processing. The training method underlying the server is the best available, and has been used to predict possible MHC-binding peptides in a series of pathogen viral proteomes including SARS, Influenza and HIV, resulting in an average of 75–80% confirmed MHC binders. Here, the performance is further validated and benchmarked using a large set of newly published affinity data, non-redundant to the training set. The server is free of use and available at: http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetMHC.
Bacillus anthracis produces a binary toxin composed of protective antigen (PA) and one of two subunits, lethal factor (LF) or edema factor (EF). Most studies have concentrated on induction of toxin-specific antibodies as the correlate of protective immunity, in contrast to which understanding of cellular immunity to these toxins and its impact on infection is limited. We characterized CD4+ T cell immunity to LF in a panel of humanized HLA-DR and DQ transgenic mice and in naturally exposed patients. As the variation in antigen presentation governed by HLA polymorphism has a major impact on protective immunity to specific epitopes, we examined relative binding affinities of LF peptides to purified HLA class II molecules, identifying those regions likely to be of broad applicability to human immune studies through their ability to bind multiple alleles. Transgenics differing only in their expression of human HLA class II alleles showed a marked hierarchy of immunity to LF. Immunogenicity in HLA transgenics was primarily restricted to epitopes from domains II and IV of LF and promiscuous, dominant epitopes, common to all HLA types, were identified in domain II. The relevance of this model was further demonstrated by the fact that a number of the immunodominant epitopes identified in mice were recognized by T cells from humans previously infected with cutaneous anthrax and from vaccinated individuals. The ability of the identified epitopes to confer protective immunity was demonstrated by lethal anthrax challenge of HLA transgenic mice immunized with a peptide subunit vaccine comprising the immunodominant epitopes that we identified.
Anthrax is of concern with respect to human exposure in endemic regions, concerns about bioterrorism and the considerable global burden of livestock infections. The immunology of this disease remains poorly understood. Vaccination has been based on B. anthracis filtrates or attenuated spore-based vaccines, with more recent trials of next-generation recombinant vaccines. Approaches generally require extensive vaccination regimens and there have been concerns about immunogenicity and adverse reactions. An ongoing need remains for rationally designed, effective and safe anthrax vaccines. The importance of T cell stimulating vaccines is inceasingly recognized. An essential step is an understanding of immunodominant epitopes and their relevance across the diverse HLA immune response genes of human populations. We characterized CD4 T cell immunity to anthrax Lethal Factor (LF), using HLA transgenic mice, as well as testing candidate peptide epitopes for binding to a wide range of HLA alleles. We identified anthrax epitopes, noteworthy in that they elicit exceptionally strong immunity with promiscuous binding across multiple HLA alleles and isotypes. T cell responses in humans exposed to LF through either natural anthrax infection or vaccination were also examined. Epitopes identified as candidates were used to protect HLA transgenic mice from anthrax challenge.
Clinical and animal studies of coccidioidomycosis have demonstrated that activated CD4+ T lymphocytes are essential for protection against this fungal respiratory disease. We previously reported a vaccine against Coccidioides infection which contained three recombinant CD4+ T cell-reactive proteins and induced a robust, protective immune response in mice. Due to the anticipated high cost of production and clinical assessment of this multivalent vaccine, we generated a single protein which contained immunodominant T cell epitopes of the three polypeptides. Epitopes were initially identified by computational prediction of their ability to bind promiscuously to human major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) molecules. Cellular immunoassays confirmed the immunogenicity of the synthesized epitope peptides, while in vitro binding assays revealed a range of peptide affinity for MHC II. A DNA construct was synthesized for bacterial expression of a recombinant protein vaccine which contained five epitopes with the highest affinity for human MHC II, each fused with leader and spacer peptides proposed to optimize epitope processing and presentation to T cell receptors. Recall assays of immune T lymphocytes obtained from human MHC II-expressing HLA-DR4 transgenic mice confirmed that 4 of the 5 epitope peptides were processed. Mice immunized with the epitope-based vaccine admixed with a synthetic oligodeoxynucleotide adjuvant or loaded into yeast glucan particles and then challenged intranasally with Coccidioides showed early lung infiltration of activated T helper-1 (Th1), Th2, and Th17 cells, elevated gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and interleukin (IL)-17 production, significant reduction of fungal burden, and prolongation of survival compared to nonvaccinated mice. This is the first report of an epitope-based vaccine against coccidioidomycosis.
In the conventional paradigm of humoral immunity, B cells recognize their cognate antigen target in its native form. However, it is well known that relatively unstable peptides bearing only partial structural resemblance to the native protein can trigger antibodies recognizing higher-order structures found in the native protein. On the basis of sound thermodynamic principles, this work reveals that stability of immunogenic proteinlike motifs is a critical parameter rationalizing the diverse humoral immune responses induced by different linear peptide epitopes. In this paradigm, peptides with a minimal amount of stability (ΔGX<0 kcal/mol) around a proteinlike motif (X) are capable of inducing antibodies with similar affinity for both peptide and native protein, more weakly stable peptides (ΔGX>0 kcal/mol) trigger antibodies recognizing full protein but not peptide, and unstable peptides (ΔGX>8 kcal/mol) fail to generate antibodies against either peptide or protein. Immunization experiments involving peptides derived from the autoantigen histidyl-tRNA synthetase verify that selected peptides with varying relative stabilities predicted by molecular dynamics simulations induce antibody responses consistent with this theory. Collectively, these studies provide insight pertinent to the structural basis of immunogenicity and, at the same time, validate this form of thermodynamic and molecular modeling as an approach to probe the development/evolution of humoral immune responses.
In the current paradigm of immune system recognition, T cell receptors bind to relatively short peptide sequences complexed with major histocompatibility complex proteins on the surface of antigen presenting cells, while B cell receptors recognize unprocessed protein structures. Yet, ample data exist showing that peptide immunization can trigger B cell responses targeting both the immunizing peptide and peptidelike motifs contained within intact protein—despite the fact that the folding stability of such peptides is often quite low. Using thermodynamic modeling and the technique of molecular dynamics simulations, this work provides a cogent framework for understanding the relative capacity of inherently unstable peptide structures to faithfully trigger B cell antibody production against specific conformational motifs found in native/intact proteins.