A panel of 133 allergens derived from 28 different sources, including fungi, trees, grasses, weeds and indoor allergens, was surveyed utilizing prediction of HLA class II binding peptides and ELISPOT assays with PBMC from allergic donors, resulting in the identification of 257 T cell epitopes. More than 90% of the epitopes were novel, and for 14 allergen sources were the first ever identified. The epitopes identified in the different allergen sources summed up to a variable fraction of the total extract response. In cases of allergens where the identified T cell epitopes accounted for a minor fraction of the extract response, fewer known protein sequences were available, suggesting that for “low epitope coverage” allergen sources, additional allergen proteins remain to be identified. IL-5 and IFN-γresponses were measured as prototype Th2 and Th1 responses, respectively. While in some cases (e.g., Orchard Grass, Alternaria, Cypress, and Russian Thistle) IL-5 production greatly exceeded IFN-γ, in others (e.g., Aspergillus, Penicillum, and Alder) the production of IFN-γ exceeded IL-5. Thus, different allergen sources are associated with variable polarization of the responding T cells. The present study represents the most comprehensive survey to date of human allergen derived T cell epitopes. These epitopes might be used to characterize T cell phenotype/T cell plasticity as a function of seasonality, or as a result of SIT treatment or varying disease severity (asthma or rhinitis).
The extracellular virion form (EV) of vaccinia virus (VACV) is essential for viral pathogenesis and is difficult to neutralize with antibodies. Why this is the case and how the smallpox vaccine overcomes this challenge remain incompletely understood. We previously showed that high concentrations of anti-B5 antibodies are insufficient to directly neutralize EV (M. R. Benhnia, et al., J. Virol. 83:1201–1215, 2009). This allowed for at least two possible interpretations: covering the EV surface is insufficient for neutralization, or there are insufficient copies of B5 to allow anti-B5 IgG to cover the whole surface of EV and another viral receptor protein remains active. We endeavored to test these possibilities, focusing on the antibody responses elicited by immunization against smallpox. We tested whether human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against the three major EV antigens, B5, A33, and A56, could individually or together neutralize EV. While anti-B5 or anti-A33 (but not anti-A56) MAbs of appropriate isotypes were capable of neutralizing EV in the presence of complement, a mixture of anti-B5, anti-A33, and anti-A56 MAbs was incapable of directly neutralizing EV, even at high concentrations. This remained true when neutralizing the IHD-J strain, which lacks a functional version of the fourth and final known EV surface protein, A34. These immunological data are consistent with the possibility that viral proteins may not be the active component of the EV surface for target cell binding and infectivity. We conclude that the protection afforded by the smallpox vaccine anti-EV response is predominantly mediated not by direct neutralization but by isotype-dependent effector functions, such as complement recruitment for antibodies targeting B5 and A33.
Bla g allergens are major targets of IgE responses associated with cockroach allergies. However, little is known about corresponding T cell responses, despite their potential involvement in immunopathology and the clinical efficacy of Specific ImmunoTherapy (SIT). Bioinformatic predictions of the capacity of Bla g 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 peptides to bind HLA DR, DP and DQ molecules, and PBMC responses from 30 allergic donors, identified 25 T cell epitopes. Five immunodominant epitopes accounted for over half of the response. Bla g 5, the most dominant allergen, accounted for 65% of the response, and Bla g 6 accounted for 20%. Bla g 5 induced both IL-5 and IFN-γ responses, while Bla g 6 induced mostly IL-5 and, conversely, Bla g 2 induced only IFN-γ. Thus, responses to allergens within a source are independently regulated, suggesting a critical role for the allergen itself, and not extraneous stimulation from other allergens or co-presented immunomodulators. In comparing antibody with T cell responses for several donor/allergen combinations we detected IgE titers in the absence of detectable T cell responses, suggesting that unlinked T-B help might support development of IgE responses. Finally, SIT resulted in IL-5 down-modulation, which was not associated with development of IFN-γ or IL-10 responses to any of the Bla g derived peptides. In summary, the characteristics of T cell responses to Bla g allergens appear uncorrelated with IgE responses. Monitoring these responses may therefore yield important information relevant to understanding cockroach allergies and their treatment.
Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CSP) is a leading malaria vaccine candidate antigen, known to elicit protective antibody responses in humans (RTS,S vaccine). Recently, a DNA prime / adenovirus (Ad) vector boost vaccine encoding CSP and a second P. falciparum antigen, apical membrane antigen-1, also elicited sterile protection, but in this case associated with interferon gamma ELISpot and CD8+ T cell but not antibody responses. The finding that CSP delivered by an appropriate vaccine platform likely elicits protective cell-mediated immunity provided a rationale for identifying class I-restricted epitopes within this leading vaccine candidate antigen.
Limited samples of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from clinical trials of the Ad vaccine were used to identify CD8+ T cell epitopes within pools of overlapping 15mer peptides spanning portions of CSP that stimulated recall responses. Computerized algorithms (NetMHC) predicted 17 minimal class I-restricted 9-10mer epitopes within fifteen 15mers positive in ELISpot assay using PBMC from 10 HLA-matched study subjects. Four additional epitopes were subsequently predicted using NetMHC, matched to other study subjects without initial 15mer ELISpot screening. Nine of the putative epitopes were synthesized and tested by ELISpot assay, and six of these nine were further tested for CD8+ T cell responses by ELISpot CD4+ and CD8+ T cell-depletion and flow cytometry assays for evidence of CD8+ T cell dependence.
Each of the nine putative epitopes, all sequence-conserved, recalled responses from HLA-matched CSP-immunized research subjects. Four shorter sequences contained within these sequences were identified using NetMHC predictions and may have contributed to recall responses. Five (9-10mer) epitopes were confirmed to be targets of CD8+ T cell responses using ELISpot depletion and ICS assays. Two 9mers among these nine epitopes were each restricted by two HLA supertypes (A01/B07; A01A24/A24) and one 9mer was restricted by three HLA supertypes (A01A24/A24/B27) indicating that some CSP class I-restricted epitopes, like DR epitopes, may be HLA-promiscuous.
This study identified nine and confirmed five novel class I epitopes restricted by six HLA supertypes, suggesting that an adenovirus-vectored CSP vaccine would be immunogenic and potentially protective in genetically diverse populations.
Malaria; Vaccine; Circumsporozoite protein; ELISpot; Flow cytometry; NetMHC; Epitope mapping; Class I restriction; Localization
Diagnosis of tuberculosis often relies on the ex vivo interferon gamma release assays QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB. However, understanding of the immunological mechanisms underlying their diagnostic utility is still incomplete. Accordingly, we investigated T cell responses for the TB antigens included in the these assays and other commonly studied antigens; ESAT-6, CFP10, Rv2031c, Rv2654c, and Rv1038c. PBMC from latently infected individuals were tested in ex vivo ELISPOT assays with overlapping peptides spanning the entirety of these antigens. We found striking variations in prevalence and magnitude of ex vivo reactivity, with CFP10 being most dominant, followed by ESAT-6 and Rv2654c being virtually inactive. Rv2031c and Rv1038c were associated with intermediate patterns of reactivity. Further studies showed that low reactivity was not due to lack of HLA binding peptides, and high reactivity was associated with recognition of a few discrete dominant antigenic regions. Different donors recognized the same core sequence in a given epitope. In some cases the identified epitopes were restricted by a single specific common HLA molecule (selective restriction), while in other cases promiscuous restriction of the same epitope by multiple HLA molecules was apparent. Definition of the specific restricting HLA allowed to produce tetrameric reagents and show that epitope-specific T cells recognizing either selectively or promiscuously restricted epitopes were predominantly T effector memory (TEM). In conclusion, these results highlight the feasibility of more clearly defined TB diagnostic reagent.
Structural flexibility in germline gene-encoded antibodies allows promiscuous binding to diverse antigens. The binding affinity and specificity for a particular epitope typically increase as antibody genes acquire somatic mutations in antigen-stimulated B cells. In this work, we investigated whether germline gene-encoded antibodies are optimal for polyspecificity by determining the basis for recognition of diverse antigens by antibodies encoded by three VH gene segments. Panels of somatically mutated antibodies encoded by a common VH gene, but each binding to a different antigen, were computationally redesigned to predict antibodies that could engage multiple antigens at once. The Rosetta multi-state design process predicted antibody sequences for the entire heavy chain variable region, including framework, CDR1, and CDR2 mutations. The predicted sequences matched the germline gene sequences to a remarkable degree, revealing by computational design the residues that are predicted to enable polyspecificity, i.e., binding of many unrelated antigens with a common sequence. The process thereby reverses antibody maturation in silico. In contrast, when designing antibodies to bind a single antigen, a sequence similar to that of the mature antibody sequence was returned, mimicking natural antibody maturation in silico. We demonstrated that the Rosetta computational design algorithm captures important aspects of antibody/antigen recognition. While the hypervariable region CDR3 often mediates much of the specificity of mature antibodies, we identified key positions in the VH gene encoding CDR1, CDR2, and the immunoglobulin framework that are critical contributors for polyspecificity in germline antibodies. Computational design of antibodies capable of binding multiple antigens may allow the rational design of antibodies that retain polyspecificity for diverse epitope binding.
Human antibodies are critical for eradication of viral and bacterial infections, while providing the basis for immunological memory. Antibody protein molecules are encoded by several recombined germline gene segments prior to antigen exposure. The initial set of antibodies that are generated by recombination in the bone marrow is the antigen-naïve antibody repertoire. It is of great interest to know how a finite set of such germline gene-encoded antibodies can recognize the large number of possible foreign antigens. A current hypothesis in the field suggests that antibodies encoded by germline gene segments are structurally flexible and able to accommodate binding to many antigens, much like one glove fitting the shape of many hands. The phenomenon of one structure binding to many targets is known as polyspecificity. Here we further support this hypothesis by showing that entire antibody protein variable regions encoded by germline gene segments are close to ideal for polyspecificity. We used computational design algorithms to explore antibody sequence space rapidly and predict optimal sequences to achieve polyspecificity. The resulting designed sequences recapitulated the germline gene segment sequences and highlighted residues critical for achieving polyspecificity. These results suggest how a finite set of antibody germline gene segments can encode antibodies that can engage a large number of antigens.
Previous studies have attempted to define human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II supertypes, analogous to the case for class I, on the basis of shared peptide-binding motifs or structure. In the present study, we determined the binding capacity of a large panel of non-redundant peptides for a set of 27 common HLA DR, DQ, and DP molecules. The measured binding data were then used to define class II supertypes on the basis of shared binding repertoires. Seven different supertypes (main DR, DR4, DRB3, main DQ, DQ7, main DP, and DP2) were defined. The molecules associated with the respective supertypes fell largely along lines defined by MHC locus and reflect, in broad terms, commonalities in reported peptide-binding motifs. Repertoire overlaps between molecules within the same class II supertype were found to be similar in magnitude to what has been observed for HLA class I supertypes. Surprisingly, however, the degree to which repertoires between molecules in the different class II supertypes also overlapped was found to be five to tenfold higher than repertoire overlaps noted between molecules in different class I supertypes. These results highlight a high degree of repertoire overlap amongst all HLA class II molecules, perhaps reflecting binding in multiple registers, and more pronounced dependence on backbone interactions rather than peptide anchor residues. This fundamental difference between HLA class I and class II would not have been predicted on the basis of analysis of either binding motifs or the sequence/predicted structures of the HLA molecules.
MHC; HLA class I; HLA class II; Peptide binding; T cell epitopes
Ontologies categorize entities, express relationships between them, and provide standardized definitions. Thus, they can be used to present and enforce the specific relationships between database components. The Immune Epitope Database (IEDB, http://www.iedb.org) utilizes the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI) and several additional ontologies to represent immune epitope mapping experiments. Here, we describe our experiences utilizing this representation in order to provide enhanced database search functionality. We applied a simple approach to incorporate the benefits of the information captured in a formal ontology directly into the user web interface, resulting in an improved user experience with minimal changes to the database itself. The integration is easy to maintain, provides standardized terms and definitions, and allows for subsumption queries. In addition to these immediate benefits, our long-term goal is to enable true semantic integration of data and knowledge in the biomedical domain. We describe our progress towards that goal and what we perceive as the main obstacles.
Smallpox vaccine is considered a gold standard of vaccines, as it is the only one that has led to the complete eradication of an infectious disease from the human population. B cell responses are critical for the protective immunity induced by the vaccine, yet their targeted epitopes recognized in humans remain poorly described. Here we describe the biochemical and structural characterization of one of the immunodominant vaccinia virus (VACV) antigens, D8, and its binding to the monoclonal antibody LA5, which is capable of neutralizing VACV in the presence of complement. The full-length D8 ectodomain was found to form a tetramer. We determined the crystal structure of the LA5 Fab-monomeric D8 complex at a resolution of 2.1 Å, as well as the unliganded structures of D8 and LA5-Fab at resolutions of 1.42 Å and 1.6 Å, respectively. D8 features a carbonic anhydrase (CAH) fold that has evolved to bind to the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chondroitin sulfate (CS) on host cells. The central positively charged crevice of D8 was predicted to be the CS binding site by automated docking experiments. Furthermore, sequence alignment of various poxvirus D8 orthologs revealed that this crevice is structurally conserved. The D8 epitope is formed by 23 discontinuous residues that are spread across 80% of the D8 protein sequence. Interestingly, LA5 binds with a high-affinity lock-and-key mechanism above this crevice with an unusually large antibody-antigen interface, burying 2,434 Å2 of protein surface.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are enriched in individuals suffering from a given disease. Most disease-associated SNPs fall into non-coding regions, so that it is not straightforward to infer phenotype or function; moreover, many SNPs are in tight genetic linkage, so that a SNP identified as associated with a particular disease may not itself be causal, but rather signify the presence of a linked SNP that is functionally relevant to disease pathogenesis. Here, we present an analysis method that takes advantage of the recent rapid accumulation of epigenomics data to address these problems for some SNPs. Using asthma as a prototypic example; we show that non-coding disease-associated SNPs are enriched in genomic regions that function as regulators of transcription, such as enhancers and promoters. Identifying enhancers based on the presence of the histone modification marks such as H3K4me1 in different cell types, we show that the location of enhancers is highly cell-type specific. We use these findings to predict which SNPs are likely to be directly contributing to disease based on their presence in regulatory regions, and in which cell types their effect is expected to be detectable. Moreover, we can also predict which cell types contribute to a disease based on overlap of the disease-associated SNPs with the locations of enhancers present in a given cell type. Finally, we suggest that it will be possible to re-analyze GWAS studies with much higher power by limiting the SNPs considered to those in coding or regulatory regions of cell types relevant to a given disease.
The immune system rapidly responds to intracellular infections by detecting MHC class I restricted T-cell epitopes presented on infected cells. It was originally thought that viral peptides are liberated during constitutive protein turnover, but this conflicts with the observation that viral epitopes are detected within minutes of their synthesis even when their source proteins exhibit half-lives of days. The DRiPs hypothesis proposes that epitopes derive from Defective Ribosomal Products (DRiPs), rather than degradation of mature protein products. One potential source of DRiPs is premature translation termination. If this is a major source of DRiPs, this should be reflected in positional bias towards the N-terminus. By contrast, if downstream initiation is a major source of DRiPs, there should be positional bias towards the C-terminus. Here, we systematically assessed positional bias of epitopes in viral antigens, exploiting the large set of data available in the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource. We show a statistically significant degree of positional skewing among epitopes; epitopes from both ends of antigens tend to be under-represented. Centric-skewing correlates with a bias towards class I binding peptides being over-represented in the middle, in parallel with a higher degree of evolutionary conservation.
To defend the host from an infection, the immune system continuously scans cell surfaces for foreign objects. Specifically, a virus inside a cell exploits the host to make copies of its proteins; viral proteins are broken up into peptide fragments; and the fragments are displayed on the infected cell's surface, thereby allowing detection and cell-killing. How these peptide fragments for cell-surface presentation are generated remains unknown. An understanding of this step will lead to rational design of vaccines and insights into tumor immunosurveillance and autoimmunity. One possible mechanism is that the peptide fragments come from defective proteins missing either the beginning or end regions, which may result in a bias. Here, we analyzed locations of a large set of known viral epitopes, peptide fragments recognized by the immune system, within their proteins. We find that all regions of proteins are represented well by the immune system. However, there is a statistically significant bias in the central regions of proteins, which correlate with a pattern of conservation spanning the length of viral proteins. Our results suggest a combined effect of conservation and enhancement of immune responses through repeated exposures in shaping the distribution of known viral epitopes.
An understanding of the immunological footprint of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) CD4 T cell recognition is still incomplete. Here we report that human Th1 cells specific for MTB are largely contained in a CXCR3+CCR6+ memory subset and highly focused on three broadly immunodominant antigenic islands, all related to bacterial secretion systems. Our results refute the notion that secreted antigens act as a decoy, since both secreted proteins and proteins comprising the secretion system itself are targeted by a fully functional T cell response. In addition, several novel T cell antigens were identified which can be of potential diagnostic use, or as vaccine antigens. These results underline the power of a truly unbiased, genome-wide, analysis of CD4 MTB recognition based on the combined use of epitope predictions, high throughput ELISPOT, and T cell libraries using PBMCs from individuals latently infected with MTB.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is one of the most life-threatening pathogens of all time, having infected one-third of the present human population. There is an urgent need for both novel vaccines and diagnostic strategies. Here, we were able to identify the targets most dominantly recognized by latently infected individual that successfully contain infection. These targets are contained in three broadly genomic antigenic islands, all related to bacterial secretion systems and composed by several distinct ORFs. Thus, our results suggest that vaccination with one or few defined antigens will fail to replicate the response associated with natural immunity. Our analysis also pinpoints that the Th1 cells dominating the response are associated with novel and well-defined phenotypic markers, suggesting that the response is molded by unique MTB associated factors. This study demonstrates further that the approach combining peptide binding predictions with modern high throughput techniques is generally applicable to the study of immunity to other complex pathogens. Together, our data provide a new angle in the worldwide fight against M. tuberculosis and could be used for diagnostic or vaccine developments.
The interaction between antibodies and antigens is one of the most important immune system mechanisms for clearing infectious organisms from the host. Antibodies bind to antigens at sites referred to as B-cell epitopes. Identification of the exact location of B-cell epitopes is essential in several biomedical applications such as; rational vaccine design, development of disease diagnostics and immunotherapeutics. However, experimental mapping of epitopes is resource intensive making in silico methods an appealing complementary approach. To date, the reported performance of methods for in silico mapping of B-cell epitopes has been moderate. Several issues regarding the evaluation data sets may however have led to the performance values being underestimated: Rarely, all potential epitopes have been mapped on an antigen, and antibodies are generally raised against the antigen in a given biological context not against the antigen monomer. Improper dealing with these aspects leads to many artificial false positive predictions and hence to incorrect low performance values. To demonstrate the impact of proper benchmark definitions, we here present an updated version of the DiscoTope method incorporating a novel spatial neighborhood definition and half-sphere exposure as surface measure. Compared to other state-of-the-art prediction methods, Discotope-2.0 displayed improved performance both in cross-validation and in independent evaluations. Using DiscoTope-2.0, we assessed the impact on performance when using proper benchmark definitions. For 13 proteins in the training data set where sufficient biological information was available to make a proper benchmark redefinition, the average AUC performance was improved from 0.791 to 0.824. Similarly, the average AUC performance on an independent evaluation data set improved from 0.712 to 0.727. Our results thus demonstrate that given proper benchmark definitions, B-cell epitope prediction methods achieve highly significant predictive performances suggesting these tools to be a powerful asset in rational epitope discovery. The updated version of DiscoTope is available at www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/DiscoTope-2.0.
The human immune system has an incredible ability to fight pathogens (bacterial, fungal and viral infections). One of the most important immune system events involved in clearing infectious organisms is the interaction between the antibodies and antigens (molecules such as proteins from the pathogenic organism). Antibodies bind to antigens at sites known as B-cell epitopes. Hence, identification of areas on the surface antigens capable of binding to antibodies (also known as B-cell epitopes) may aid the development of various immune related applications (e.g. vaccines and immunotherapeutic). However, experimental identification of B-cell epitopes is a resource intensive task, thereby making computer-aided methods an appealing complementary approach. Previously reported performances of methods for B cell epitope predictive have been moderate. Here, we present an updated version of the B-cell epitope prediction method; DiscoTope, that on the basis of a protein structure and epitope propensity scores predicts residues likely to be involved in B-cell epitopes. We demonstrate that the low performances to some extent can be explained by poorly defined benchmarks, and that inclusion of additional biological information greatly enhances the predictive performance. This suggests that, given proper benchmark definitions, state-of-the-art B cell epitope prediction methods perform significantly better than generally assumed.
The Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource (IEDB, http://www.iedb.org) hosts a continuously growing set of immune epitope data curated from the literature, as well as data submitted directly by experimental scientists. In addition, the IEDB hosts a collection of prediction tools for both MHC class I and II restricted T-cell epitopes that are regularly updated. In this review, we provide an overview of T-cell epitope data and prediction tools provided by the IEDB. We then illustrate effective use of these resources to support experimental studies. We focus on two applications, namely identification of conserved epitopes in novel strains of a previously studied pathogen, and prediction of novel T-cell epitopes to facilitate vaccine design. We address common questions and concerns faced by users, and identify patterns of usage that have proven successful.
epitope conservation; epitope predictions; vaccine design; Major Histocompatibility Complex
The frequency of dengue virus (DENV) infection has increased dramatically in the last few decades, and the lack of a vaccine has led to significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. To date, a convenient murine system to study human T cell responses to DENV has not been available. Mice transgenic for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) are widely used to model human immune responses and it has been shown that mouse-passaged DENV is able to replicate to significant levels in IFN-α/βR−/− mice. To cover a wide range of HLA phenotypes, we backcrossed IFN-α/βR−/− mice with HLA A*0201, A*0101, A*1101, B*0702 and DRB1*0101 transgenic mice. A DENV proteome-wide screen identified a total of 42 epitopes across all HLA-transgenic IFN-α/βR−/− strains tested. In contrast only 8 of these elicited responses in the corresponding IFN-α/βR+/+ mice. We were able to identify T cell epitopes from 9 out of the 10 DENV proteins. However, the majority of responses were derived from the highly conserved nonstructural proteins NS3 and NS5. The relevance of this model is further demonstrated by the fact that most of the epitopes identified in our murine system are also recognized by PBMC from DENV exposed human donors, and a dominance of HLA B*0702 restricted responses has been detected in both systems. Our results provide new insights into HLA-restricted T cell responses against DENV, and we herein describe a novel murine model, which allows the investigation of T cell-mediated immune mechanisms relevant to vaccine design.
Salmonella enterica serovars are intracellular bacteria capable of causing typhoid fever and gastroenteritis of significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Current prophylactic and therapeutic treatment is hampered by the emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of Salmonella, and vaccines provide only temporal and partial protection in vaccinees. To develop more effective Salmonella vaccines, it is important to understand the development of protective adaptive immunity to virulent Salmonella. Here we report the identification of novel CD4+ T cell peptide epitopes, which are conserved among Salmonella serovars. Immunization of Salmonella-infected mice with these peptide epitopes reduces the burden of Salmonella disease. Furthermore, we show that distinct polyfunctional (interferon-γ+, tumor necrosis factor+, and interleukin-2+) Salmonella-specific CD4+ T cell responses develop with respect to magnitude and kinetics. Moreover, we found that CD4+ T cell responses against immunodominant epitopes are predictive for active Salmonella disease. Collectively, these data could contribute to improved diagnosis of Salmonella-related diseases and rational design of Salmonella vaccines.
Approximately 3% of the world population is infected by HCV, which represents a major global health challenge. Almost 400 different scientific reports present immunological data related to T cell and antibody epitopes derived from HCV literature. Analysis of all HCV-related epitope hosted in the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB), a repository of freely accessible immune epitope data, revealed more than 1500 and 1900 distinct T cell and antibody epitopes, respectively. The inventory of all data revealed specific trends in terms of the host and the HCV genotypes from which sequences were derived. Upon further analysis we found that this large number of epitopes reflects overlapping structures, and homologous sequences derived from different HCV isolates. To access and visualize this information we developed a novel strategy that assembles large sets of epitope data, maps them onto reference genomes and displays the frequency of positive responses. Compilation of the HCV immune reactivity from hundreds of different studies, revealed a complex and thorough picture of HCV immune epitope data to date. The results pinpoint areas of more intense reactivity or research activities at the level of antibody, CD4 and CD8 responses for each of the individual HCV proteins. In general, the areas targeted by the different effector immune functions were distinct and antibody reactivity was positively correlated with hydrophilicity, while T cell reactivity correlated with hydrophobicity. At the sequence level, epitopes frequently recognized by both T cell and B cell correlated with low variability, and our analysis thus highlighted areas of potential interest for practical applications. The human reactivity was further analyzed to pinpoint differential patterns of reactivity associated with acute versus chronic infection, to reveal the apparent impact of glycosylation on T cell, but not antibody responses, and to highlight a paucity of studies involved antibody epitopes associated with virus neutralization.
Vaccinia virus (VACV) was used as the vaccine strain to eradicate smallpox. VACV is still administered to healthcare workers or researchers who are at risk of contracting the virus, and to military personnel. Thus, VACV represents a weapon against outbreaks, both natural (e.g., monkeypox) or man-made (bioterror). This virus is also used as a vector for experimental vaccine development (cancer/infectious disease). As a prototypic poxvirus, VACV is a model system for studying host–pathogen interactions. Until recently, little was known about the targets of host immune responses, which was likely owing to VACVs large genome (>200 open reading frames). However, the last few years have witnessed an explosion of data, and VACV has quickly become a useful model to study adaptive immune responses. This review summarizes and highlights key findings based on identification of VACV antigens targeted by the immune system (CD4, CD8 and antibodies) and the complex interplay between responses.
adaptive immunity; epitopes; immunodominant; protection; vaccinia virus
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) is, like most pathogens, under selective pressure to escape the immune system of its host. In particular, HIV-1 can avoid recognition by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) by altering the binding affinity of viral peptides to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules, the role of which is to present those peptides to the immune system. It is generally assumed that HLA escape mutations carry a replicative fitness cost, but these costs have not been quantified. In this study, we assess the replicative cost of mutations which are likely to escape presentation by HLA molecules in the region of HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase. Specifically, we combine computational approaches for prediction of in vitro replicative fitness and peptide binding affinity to HLA molecules. We find that mutations which impair binding to HLA-A molecules tend to have lower in vitro replicative fitness than mutations which do not impair binding to HLA-A molecules, suggesting that HLA-A escape mutations carry higher fitness costs than non-escape mutations. We argue that the association between fitness and HLA-A binding impairment is probably due to an intrinsic cost of escape from HLA-A molecules, and these costs are particularly strong for HLA-A alleles associated with efficient virus control. Counter-intuitively, we do not observe a significant effect in the case of HLA-B, but, as discussed, this does not argue against the relevance of HLA-B in virus control. Overall, this article points to the intriguing possibility that HLA-A molecules preferentially target more conserved regions of HIV-1, emphasizing the importance of HLA-A genes in the evolution of HIV-1 and RNA viruses in general.
Our immune system can recognize and kill virus-infected cells by distinguishing between self and virus-derived protein fragments, called peptides, displayed on the surface of each cell. One requirement for a successful recognition is that those peptides bind to the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules, which present them to the immune system. As a counter-strategy, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can acquire mutations that prevent this binding, thereby helping the virus to escape the surveillance of T-lymphocytes. It is likely that the virus pays a replicative cost for such escape mutations, but the magnitude of this cost has remained elusive. Here, we quantified this fitness cost in HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase by combining two computational systems biology approaches: one for prediction of in vitro replicative fitness, and one for the prediction of the efficiency of peptide binding to HLA. We found that in viral proteins targeted by HLA-A molecules, mutations which disrupt binding to those molecules carry a lower replicative fitness than mutations which do not have such an effect. We argue that these results are consistent with the hypothesis that our immune systems might have evolved to target genetic regions of RNA viruses which are costly for the pathogen to alter.
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.
The peptide repertoire that is presented by the set of HLA class I molecules of an individual is formed by the different players of the antigen processing pathway and the stringent binding environment of the HLA class I molecules. Peptide elution studies have shown that only a subset of the human proteome is sampled by the antigen processing machinery and represented on the cell surface. In our study, we quantified the role of each factor relevant in shaping the HLA class I peptide repertoire by combining peptide elution data, in silico predictions of antigen processing and presentation, and data on gene expression and protein abundance. Our results indicate that gene expression level, protein abundance, and rate of potential binding peptides per protein have a clear impact on sampling probability. Furthermore, once a protein is available for the antigen processing machinery in sufficient amounts, C-terminal processing efficiency and binding affinity to the HLA class I molecule determine the identity of the presented peptides. Having studied the impact of each of these factors separately, we subsequently combined all factors in a logistic regression model in order to quantify their relative impact. This model demonstrated the superiority of protein abundance over gene expression level in predicting sampling probability. Being able to discriminate between sampled and non-sampled proteins to a significant degree, our approach can potentially be used to predict the sampling probability of self proteins and of pathogen-derived proteins, which is of importance for the identification of autoimmune antigens and vaccination targets.
HLA class I molecules are expressed on the cell surface of almost all cells of the human body in complex with short fragments (peptides) of cytosolic proteins, thereby providing a snapshot of the intracellular state of a cell to circulating CD8+ T cells. Several processes are involved in shaping the peptide ligand repertoire of an HLA class I molecule, which generally represents only a small fraction of the proteins available in the cytosol. In our work we addressed protein sampling by HLA class I molecules to answer two questions: 1) Which proteins are sampled by the antigen processing pathway and why, and 2) which peptides of a given protein are picked to represent the source protein on the cell surface? To this end we quantified the contribution of each process involved in peptide processing and presentation individually and combined them into a logistic regression model. This simple model enabled us to predict the sampling probability of self proteins and may aid in the identification of autoimmune antigens.
Although cellular immunity to acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection has been well characterized in experimental studies in mice, the T cell response to this virus in humans is incompletely understood. Thus, we analyzed the breadths, magnitudes, and differentiation phenotypes of memory LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in three human donors displaying a variety of disease outcomes after accidental needle stick injury or exposure to LCMV. Although only a small cohort of donors was analyzed at a single time point postinfection, several interesting observations were made. First, we were able to detect LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses directly ex vivo at 4 to 8 years after exposure, demonstrating the longevity of T cell memory in humans. Second, unlike in murine models of LCMV infection, we found that the breadths of memory CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses were not significantly different from one another. Third, it seemed that the overall CD8+ T cell response was augmented with increasing severity of disease, while the LCMV-specific CD4+ T cell response magnitude was highly variable between the three different donors. Next, we found that LCMV-specific CD8+ T cells in the three donors analyzed seemed to undergo an effector memory differentiation program distinct from that of CD4+ T cells. Finally, the levels of expression of memory, costimulatory, and inhibitory receptors on CD8+ and CD4+ T cell subsets, in some instances, correlated with disease outcome. These data demonstrate for the first time LCMV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in infected humans and begin to provide new insights into memory T cell responses following an acute virus infection.
Binding of peptides to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules is the single most selective step in the recognition of pathogens by the cellular immune system. The human MHC genomic region (called HLA) is extremely polymorphic comprising several thousand alleles, each encoding a distinct MHC molecule. The potentially unique specificity of the majority of HLA alleles that have been identified to date remains uncharacterized. Likewise, only a limited number of chimpanzee and rhesus macaque MHC class I molecules have been characterized experimentally. Here, we present NetMHCpan-2.0, a method that generates quantitative predictions of the affinity of any peptide–MHC class I interaction. NetMHCpan-2.0 has been trained on the hitherto largest set of quantitative MHC binding data available, covering HLA-A and HLA-B, as well as chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, gorilla, and mouse MHC class I molecules. We show that the NetMHCpan-2.0 method can accurately predict binding to uncharacterized HLA molecules, including HLA-C and HLA-G. Moreover, NetMHCpan-2.0 is demonstrated to accurately predict peptide binding to chimpanzee and macaque MHC class I molecules. The power of NetMHCpan-2.0 to guide immunologists in interpreting cellular immune responses in large out-bred populations is demonstrated. Further, we used NetMHCpan-2.0 to predict potential binding peptides for the pig MHC class I molecule SLA-1*0401. Ninety-three percent of the predicted peptides were demonstrated to bind stronger than 500 nM. The high performance of NetMHCpan-2.0 for non-human primates documents the method's ability to provide broad allelic coverage also beyond human MHC molecules. The method is available at http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetMHCpan.
MHC class I; Binding specificity; Non-human primates; Artificial neural networks; CTL epitopes
We have reviewed the information about epitopes of immunological interest from Clostridium botulinum and Bacillus anthracis, by mining the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource. For both pathogens, the vast majority of epitopes reported to date are derived from a single protein: the protective antigen of B. anthracis and the neurotoxin type A of C. botulinum. A detailed analysis of the data was performed to characterize the function, localization and conservancy of epitopes identified as neutralizing and/or protective. In order to broaden the scope of this analysis, we have also included data describing immune responses against defined fragments (over 50 amino acids long) of the relevant antigens. The scarce information on T-cell determinants and on epitopes from other antigens besides the toxins, highlights a gap in our knowledge and identifies areas for future research. Despite this, several distinct structures at the epitope and fragment level are described herein, which could be potential additions to future vaccines or targets of novel immunotherapeutics and diagnostic reagents.
anthrax toxin; Bacillus anthracis; botulinum toxin; Clostridium botulinum; epitope; therapeutic antibodies; vaccine
The primary CD8+ T cell response of C57BL/6J mice against the 28 known epitopes of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) is associated with a clear immunodominance hierarchy whose mechanism has yet to be defined. To evaluate the role of epitope competition in immunodominance, we manipulated the number of CD8+ T cell epitopes that could be recognized during LCMV infection. Decreasing epitope numbers, using a viral variant lacking dominant epitopes or C57BL/6J mice lacking H-2Kb, resulted in minor response increases for the remaining epitopes and no new epitopes being recognized. Increasing epitope numbers by using F1 hybrid mice, delivery by recombinant vaccinia virus, or epitope delivery as a pool in IFA maintained the overall response pattern; however, changes in the hierarchy did become apparent. MHC binding affinity of these epitopes was measured and was found to not strictly predict the hierarchy since in several cases similarly high binding affinities were associated with differences in immunodominance. In these instances the naive CD8+ T cell precursor frequency, directly measured by tetramer staining, correlated with the response hierarchy seen after LCMV infection. Finally, we investigated an escape mutant of the dominant GP33-41 epitope that elicited a weak response following LCMV variant virus infection. Strikingly, dominance loss likely reflects a substantial reduction in frequencies of naive precursors specific for this epitope. Thus, our results indicate that an intrinsic property of the epitope (MHC binding affinity) and an intrinsic property of the host (naive precursor frequency) jointly dictate the immunodominance hierarchy of CD8+ T cell responses.