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1.  The Human CD8+ T Cell Responses Induced by a Live Attenuated Tetravalent Dengue Vaccine Are Directed against Highly Conserved Epitopes 
Journal of Virology  2014;89(1):120-128.
The incidence of infection with any of the four dengue virus serotypes (DENV1 to -4) has increased dramatically in the last few decades, and the lack of a treatment or vaccine has contributed to significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. A recent comprehensive analysis of the human T cell response against wild-type DENV suggested an human lymphocyte antigen (HLA)-linked protective role for CD8+ T cells. We have collected one-unit blood donations from study participants receiving the monovalent or tetravalent live attenuated DENV vaccine (DLAV), developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from these donors were screened in gamma interferon enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assays with pools of predicted, HLA-matched, class I binding peptides covering the entire DENV proteome. Here, we characterize for the first time CD8+ T cell responses after live attenuated dengue vaccination and show that CD8+ T cell responses in vaccinees were readily detectable and comparable to natural dengue infection. Interestingly, whereas broad responses to structural and nonstructural (NS) proteins were observed after monovalent vaccination, T cell responses following tetravalent vaccination were, dramatically, focused toward the highly conserved NS proteins. Epitopes were highly conserved in a vast variety of field isolates and able to elicit multifunctional T cell responses. Detailed knowledge of the T cell response will contribute to the identification of robust correlates of protection in natural immunity and following vaccination against DENV.
IMPORTANCE The development of effective vaccination strategies against dengue virus (DENV) infection and clinically significant disease is a task of high global public health value and significance, while also being a challenge of significant complexity. A recent efficacy trial of the most advanced dengue vaccine candidate, demonstrated only partial protection against all four DENV serotypes, despite three subsequent immunizations and detection of measurable neutralizing antibodies to each serotype in most subjects. These results challenge the hypothesis that seroconversion is the only reliable correlate of protection. Here, we show that CD8+ T cell responses in vaccinees were readily detectable and comparable to natural dengue virus infection. Detailed knowledge of the T cell response may further contribute to the identification of robust correlates of protection in natural immunity and vaccination against DENV.
PMCID: PMC4301095  PMID: 25320311
2.  Acyclovir Has Low but Detectable Influence on HLA-B*57:01 Specificity without Inducing Hypersensitivity 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0124878.
Immune mediated adverse drug reactions (IM-ADRs) remain a significant source of patient morbidity that have more recently been shown to be associated with specific class I and/or II human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles. Abacavir-induced hypersensitivity syndrome is a CD8+ T cell dependent IM-ADR that is exclusively mediated by HLA-B*57:01. We and others have previously shown that abacavir can occupy the floor of the peptide binding groove of HLA-B*57:01 molecules, increasing the affinity of certain self peptides resulting in an altered peptide-binding repertoire. Here, we have identified another drug, acyclovir, which appears to act in a similar fashion. As with abacavir, acyclovir showed a dose dependent increase in affinity for peptides with valine and isoleucine at their C-terminus. In agreement with the binding studies, HLA-B*57:01 peptide-elution studies performed in the presence of acyclovir revealed an increased number of endogenously bound peptides with a C-terminal isoleucine. Accordingly, we have hypothesized that acyclovir acts by the same mechanism as abacavir, although our data also suggest the overall effect is much smaller: the largest changes of peptide affinity for acyclovir were 2-5 fold, whereas for abacavir this effect was as much as 1000-fold. Unlike abacavir, acyclovir is not known to cause IM-ADRs. We conclude that the modest effect of acyclovir on HLA binding affinity in contrast to the large effect of abacavir is insufficient to trigger a hypersensitivity syndrome. We further support this by functional in vitro studies where acyclovir, unlike abacavir, was unable to produce an increase in IFN-γ upon expansion of HLA-B*57:01+ PBMCs from healthy donors. Using abacavir and acyclovir as examples we therefore propose an in vitro pre-clinical screening strategy, whereby thresholds can be applied to MHC-peptide binding assays to determine the likelihood that a drug could cause a clinically relevant IM-ADR.
PMCID: PMC4449000  PMID: 26024233
3.  Analysis of Human RSV Immunity at the Molecular Level: Learning from the Past and Present 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0127108.
Human RSV is one of the most prevalent viral pathogens of early childhood for which no vaccine is available. Herein we provide an analysis of RSV epitope data to examine its application to vaccine design and development. Our objective was to provide an overview of antigenic coverage, identify critical antibody and T cell determinants, and then analyze the cumulative RSV epitope data from the standpoint of functional responses using a combinational approach to characterize antigenic structure and epitope location. A review of the cumulative data revealed, not surprisingly, that the vast majority of epitopes have been defined for the two major surface antigens, F and G. Antibody and T cell determinants have been reported from multiple hosts, including those from human subjects following natural infection, however human data represent a minority of the data. A structural analysis of the major surface antigen, F, showed that the majority of epitopes defined for functional antibodies (neutralizing and/or protective) were either shown to bind pre-F or to be accessible in both pre- and post-F forms. This finding may have has implications for on-going vaccine design and development. These interpretations are in agreement with previous work and can be applied in the larger context of functional epitopes on the F protein. It is our hope that this work will provide the basis for further RSV-specific epitope discovery and investigation into the nature of antigen conformation in immunogenicity.
PMCID: PMC4441423  PMID: 26001197
4.  Immunodominance Changes as a Function of the Infecting Dengue Virus Serotype and Primary versus Secondary Infection 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(19):11383-11394.
Dengue virus (DENV) is the causative agent of dengue fever (DF). This disease can be caused by any of four DENV serotypes (DENV1 to -4) which share 67 to 75% sequence homology with one another. The effect of subsequent infections with different serotypes on the T cell repertoire is not fully understood. We utilized mice transgenic for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) lacking the alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) receptor to study responses to heterologous DENV infection. First, we defined the primary T cell response to DENV3 in the context of a wide range of HLA molecules. The primary DENV3 immune response recognized epitopes derived from all 10 DENV proteins, with a significant fraction of the response specific for structural proteins. This is in contrast to primary DENV2 infection, in which structural proteins are a minor component of the response, suggesting differential antigen immunodominance as a function of the infecting serotype. We next investigated the effect of secondary heterologous DENV infection on the T cell repertoire. In the case of both DENV2/3 and DENV3/2 heterologous infections, recognition of conserved/cross-reactive epitopes was either constant or expanded compared to that in homologous infection. Furthermore, in heterologous infection, previous infection with a different serotype impaired the development of responses directed to serotype-specific but not conserved epitopes. Thus, a detrimental effect of previous heterotypic responses might not be due to dysfunctional and weakly cross-reactive epitopes dominating the response. Rather, responses to the original serotype might limit the magnitude of responses directed against epitopes that are either cross-reactive to or specific for the most recently infecting serotype.
IMPORTANCE DENV transmission occurs in more than 100 countries and is an increasing public health problem in tropical and subtropical regions. At present, no effective antiviral therapy or licensed vaccine exists, and treatment is largely supportive in nature. Disease can be caused by any of the four DENV serotypes (DENV1 to -4), which share a high degree of sequence homology with one another. In this study, we have addressed the question of how the T cell repertoire changes as a function of infections with different serotypes and of subsequent heterologous secondary infections. This is of particular interest in the field of dengue viruses, in which secondary infections with different DENV serotypes increase the risk of severe disease. Our results on the evolution of the immune response after primary and secondary infections provide new insights into HLA-restricted T cell responses against DENV relevant for the design of a vaccine against DENV.
PMCID: PMC4178794  PMID: 25056881
5.  Potent Neutralization of Vaccinia Virus by Divergent Murine Antibodies Targeting a Common Site of Vulnerability in L1 Protein 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(19):11339-11355.
Vaccinia virus (VACV) L1 is an important target for viral neutralization and has been included in multicomponent DNA or protein vaccines against orthopoxviruses. To further understand the protective mechanism of the anti-L1 antibodies, we generated five murine anti-L1 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), which clustered into 3 distinct epitope groups. While two groups of anti-L1 failed to neutralize, one group of 3 MAbs potently neutralized VACV in an isotype- and complement-independent manner. This is in contrast to neutralizing antibodies against major VACV envelope proteins, such as H3, D8, or A27, which failed to completely neutralize VACV unless the antibodies are of complement-fixing isotypes and complement is present. Compared to nonneutralizing anti-L1 MAbs, the neutralization antibodies bound to the recombinant L1 protein with a significantly higher affinity and also could bind to virions. By using a variety of techniques, including the isolation of neutralization escape mutants, hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, and X-ray crystallography, the epitope of the neutralizing antibodies was mapped to a conformational epitope with Asp35 as the key residue. This epitope is similar to the epitope of 7D11, a previously described potent VACV neutralizing antibody. The epitope was recognized mainly by CDR1 and CDR2 of the heavy chain, which are highly conserved among antibodies recognizing the epitope. These antibodies, however, had divergent light-chain and heavy-chain CDR3 sequences. Our study demonstrates that the conformational L1 epitope with Asp35 is a common site of vulnerability for potent neutralization by a divergent group of antibodies.
IMPORTANCE Vaccinia virus, the live vaccine for smallpox, is one of the most successful vaccines in human history, but it presents a level of risk that has become unacceptable for the current population. Studying the immune protection mechanism of smallpox vaccine is important for understanding the basic principle of successful vaccines and the development of next-generation, safer vaccines for highly pathogenic orthopoxviruses. We studied antibody targets in smallpox vaccine by developing potent neutralizing antibodies against vaccinia virus and comprehensively characterizing their epitopes. We found a site in vaccinia virus L1 protein as the target of a group of highly potent murine neutralizing antibodies. The analysis of antibody-antigen complex structure and the sequences of the antibody genes shed light on how these potent neutralizing antibodies are elicited from immunized mice.
PMCID: PMC4178804  PMID: 25031354
6.  Visual and functional demonstration of growing Bax-induced pores in mitochondrial outer membranes 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2015;26(2):339-349.
We visualized Bax-induced pores in outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) using cryo-electron microscopy and monitored dextran release from these vesicles by flow cytometry. The data argue that Bax promotes mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization by inducing the formation of large, solitary, and growing pores through a mechanism involving membrane-curvature stress.
Bax induces mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP), a critical step in apoptosis in which proteins are released into the cytoplasm. To resolve aspects of the mechanism, we used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualize Bax-induced pores in purified mitochondrial outer membranes (MOMs). We observed solitary pores that exhibited negative curvature at their edges. Over time, the pores grew to ∼100–160 nm in diameter after 60–90 min, with some pores measuring more than 300 nm. We confirmed these results using flow cytometry, which we used to monitor the release of fluorescent dextrans from isolated MOM vesicles. The dextran molecules were released gradually, in a manner constrained by pore size. However, the release rates were consistent over a range of dextran sizes (10–500 kDa). We concluded that the pores were not static but widened dramatically to release molecules of different sizes. Taken together, the data from cryo-EM and flow cytometry argue that Bax promotes MOMP by inducing the formation of large, growing pores through a mechanism involving membrane-curvature stress.
PMCID: PMC4294680  PMID: 25411335
7.  Abacavir-Reactive Memory T Cells Are Present in Drug Naïve Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117160.
Fifty-five percent of individuals with HLA-B*57:01 exposed to the antiretroviral drug abacavir develop a hypersensitivity reaction (HSR) that has been attributed to naïve T-cell responses to neo-antigen generated by the drug. Immunologically confirmed abacavir HSR can manifest clinically in less than 48 hours following first exposure suggesting that, at least in some cases, abacavir HSR is due to re-stimulation of a pre-existing memory T-cell population rather than priming of a high frequency naïve T-cell population.
To determine whether a pre-existing abacavir reactive memory T-cell population contributes to early abacavir HSR symptoms, we studied the abacavir specific naïve or memory T-cell response using HLA-B*57:01 positive HSR patients or healthy controls using ELISpot assay, intra-cellular cytokine staining and tetramer labelling.
Abacavir reactive CD8+ T-cell responses were detected in vitro in one hundred percent of abacavir unexposed HLA-B*57:01 positive healthy donors. Abacavir-specific CD8+ T cells from such donors can be expanded from sorted memory, and sorted naïve, CD8+ T cells without need for autologous CD4+ T cells.
We propose that these pre-existing abacavir-reactive memory CD8+ T-cell responses must have been primed by earlier exposure to another foreign antigen and that these T cells cross-react with an abacavir-HLA-B*57:01-endogenous peptide ligand complex, in keeping with the model of heterologous immunity proposed in transplant rejection.
PMCID: PMC4326126  PMID: 25674793
8.  Epigenomic analysis of primary human T cells reveals enhancers associated with TH2 memory cell differentiation and asthma susceptibility 
Nature immunology  2014;15(8):777-788.
A characteristic feature of asthma is the aberrant accumulation, differentiation or function of memory CD4+ T cells that produce type 2 cytokines (TH2 cells). By mapping genome-wide histone modification profiles for subsets of T cells isolated from peripheral blood of healthy and asthmatic individuals, we identified enhancers with known and potential roles in the normal differentiation of human TH1 cells and TH2 cells. We discovered disease-specific enhancers in T cells that differ between healthy and asthmatic individuals. Enhancers that gained the histone H3 Lys4 dimethyl (H3K4me2) mark during TH2 cell development showed the highest enrichment for asthma-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which supported a pathogenic role for TH2 cells in asthma. In silico analysis of cell-specific enhancers revealed transcription factors, microRNAs and genes potentially linked to human TH2 cell differentiation. Our results establish the feasibility and utility of enhancer profiling in well-defined populations of specialized cell types involved in disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4140783  PMID: 24997565
9.  HLA class I alleles are associated with peptide binding repertoires of different size, affinity and immunogenicity1 
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)  2013;191(12):10.4049/jimmunol.1302101.
Prediction of HLA binding affinity is widely utilized to identify candidate T cell epitopes, and an affinity of 500 nM is routinely used as a threshold for peptide selection. However, the fraction (%) of peptides predicted to bind with affinities of 500 nM varies by allele. For example, of a large collection of about 30,000 dengue virus derived peptides only 0.3% were predicted to bind HLA A*0101, while nearly 5% were predicted for A*0201. This striking difference could not be ascribed to variation in accuracy of the algorithms utilized, as predicted values closely correlated with affinity measured in vitro with purified HLA molecules. These data raised the question whether different alleles would also vary in terms of epitope repertoire size, defined as the number of associated epitopes or, alternatively, whether alleles vary drastically in terms of the affinity threshold associated with immunogenicity. To address this issue, strains of HLA transgenic mice with wide (A*0201), intermediate (B*0702) or narrow (A*0101) repertoires were immunized with peptides of varying binding affinity and relative percentile ranking. The results show that absolute binding capacity is a better predictor of immunogenicity, and analysis of epitopes from the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) revealed that predictive efficacy is increased using allele-specific affinity thresholds. Finally, we investigate the genetic and structural basis of the phenomenon. While no stringent correlate was defined, on average HLA B alleles are associated with significantly narrower repertoires than HLA A alleles.
PMCID: PMC3872965  PMID: 24190657
10.  Murine Anti-vaccinia Virus D8 Antibodies Target Different Epitopes and Differ in Their Ability to Block D8 Binding to CS-E 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(12):e1004495.
The IMV envelope protein D8 is an adhesion molecule and a major immunodominant antigen of vaccinia virus (VACV). Here we identified the optimal D8 ligand to be chondroitin sulfate E (CS-E). CS-E is characterized by a disaccharide moiety with two sulfated hydroxyl groups at positions 4′ and 6′ of GalNAc. To study the role of antibodies in preventing D8 adhesion to CS-E, we have used a panel of murine monoclonal antibodies, and tested their ability to compete with CS-E for D8 binding. Among four antibody specificity groups, MAbs of one group (group IV) fully abrogated CS-E binding, while MAbs of a second group (group III) displayed widely varying levels of CS-E blocking. Using EM, we identified the binding site for each antibody specificity group on D8. Recombinant D8 forms a hexameric arrangement, mediated by self-association of a small C-terminal domain of D8. We propose a model in which D8 oligomerization on the IMV would allow VACV to adhere to heterogeneous population of CS, including CS-C and potentially CS-A, while overall increasing binding efficiency to CS-E.
Author Summary
Vaccinia virus (VACV) is an orthopox virus and considered the gold standard of vaccines as it was used to eradicate smallpox from the human population. Inoculation with VACV leads to a strong B cell immune response and the production of potent antibodies that simultaneously target several envelope proteins of the virus. Among those viral proteins, D8 is an adhesion molecule that binds chondroitin sulfate, a glycosaminoglycan, on the host cell surface. Here, we identified chondroitin sulfate E (CS-E), as the preferred ligand for D8 and assessed the role of a panel of anti-D8 antibodies in preventing D8 binding to CS-E. We further mapped the binding site of each antibody on the D8 surface to reveal the targeted epitopes. Finally, using several truncated D8 constructs, we identified that the C-terminal domain of D8 that is not involved in CS-E binding is in fact involved in oligomerization of native D8 in vitro and likely, also on the virion, as a means of increasing binding affinity to increase viral adhesion to CS on the host cell.
PMCID: PMC4256255  PMID: 25474621
11.  Allergy-associated T cell epitope repertoires are surprisingly diverse and include non-IgE reactive antigens 
We recently identified T cell epitopes associated with human allergic responses. In a majority of cases, responses focused on a few immunodominant epitopes which can be predicted on the basis of MHC binding characteristics. Several observations from our studies challenged the assumption that T cell epitopes are derived from the same allergen proteins that bind IgE. Transcriptomic and proteomics analysis identified pollen proteins, not bound by IgE. These novel Timothy Grass proteins elicited vigorous Th2 responses, suggesting that unlinked T cell help is operational in pollen-specific responses. Thus, the repertoire of antigens recognized by T cells is much broader than IgE-binding allergens. Additionally, we evaluated the use of epitopes from these novel antigens to assess immunological changes associated with Specific Immunotherapy (SIT). We found that a marked decrease in IL5 production is associated with clinically efficacious SIT, suggesting that these novel antigens are potential immunomarkers for SIT efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4210551  PMID: 25352946
T cells; Specific immunotherapy; Timothy grass; Cytokine; Epitopes
12.  The immune epitope database (IEDB) 3.0 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D405-D412.
The IEDB,, contains information on immune epitopes—the molecular targets of adaptive immune responses—curated from the published literature and submitted by National Institutes of Health funded epitope discovery efforts. From 2004 to 2012 the IEDB curation of journal articles published since 1960 has caught up to the present day, with >95% of relevant published literature manually curated amounting to more than 15 000 journal articles and more than 704 000 experiments to date. The revised curation target since 2012 has been to make recent research findings quickly available in the IEDB and thereby ensure that it continues to be an up-to-date resource. Having gathered a comprehensive dataset in the IEDB, a complete redesign of the query and reporting interface has been performed in the IEDB 3.0 release to improve how end users can access this information in an intuitive and biologically accurate manner. We here present this most recent release of the IEDB and describe the user testing procedures as well as the use of external ontologies that have enabled it.
PMCID: PMC4384014  PMID: 25300482
13.  Sterile Immunity to Malaria after DNA Prime/Adenovirus Boost Immunization Is Associated with Effector Memory CD8+T Cells Targeting AMA1 Class I Epitopes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106241.
Fifteen volunteers were immunized with three doses of plasmid DNA encoding P. falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA1) and boosted with human adenovirus-5 (Ad) expressing the same antigens (DNA/Ad). Four volunteers (27%) demonstrated sterile immunity to controlled human malaria infection and, overall, protection was statistically significantly associated with ELISpot and CD8+ T cell IFN-γ activities to AMA1 but not CSP. DNA priming was required for protection, as 18 additional subjects immunized with Ad alone (AdCA) did not develop sterile protection.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sought to identify correlates of protection, recognizing that DNA-priming may induce different responses than AdCA alone. Among protected volunteers, two and three had higher ELISpot and CD8+ T cell IFN-γ responses to CSP and AMA1, respectively, than non-protected volunteers. Unexpectedly, non-protected volunteers in the AdCA trial showed ELISpot and CD8+ T cell IFN-γ responses to AMA1 equal to or higher than the protected volunteers. T cell functionality assessed by intracellular cytokine staining for IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-2 likewise did not distinguish protected from non-protected volunteers across both trials. However, three of the four protected volunteers showed higher effector to central memory CD8+ T cell ratios to AMA1, and one of these to CSP, than non-protected volunteers for both antigens. These responses were focused on discrete regions of CSP and AMA1. Class I epitopes restricted by A*03 or B*58 supertypes within these regions of AMA1 strongly recalled responses in three of four protected volunteers. We hypothesize that vaccine-induced effector memory CD8+ T cells recognizing a single class I epitope can confer sterile immunity to P. falciparum in humans.
We suggest that better understanding of which epitopes within malaria antigens can confer sterile immunity and design of vaccine approaches that elicit responses to these epitopes will increase the potency of next generation gene-based vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4161338  PMID: 25211344
14.  Navigating diabetes-related immune epitope data: resources and tools provided by the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) 
Immunome research  2013;9(1):10.4172/1745-7580.1000063.
The Immune Epitope Database (IEDB), originally focused on infectious diseases, was recently expanded to allergy, transplantation and autoimmunity diseases. Here we focus on diabetes, chosen as a prototype autoimmune disease. We utilize a combined tutorial and meta-analysis format, which demonstrates how common questions, related to diabetes epitopes can be answered.
A total of 409 references are captured in the IEDB describing >2,500 epitopes from diabetes associated antigens. The vast majority of data were derived from GAD, insulin, IA-2/PTPRN, IGRP, ZnT8, HSP, and ICA-1, and the experiments related to T cell epitopes and MHC binding far outnumbers B cell assays. We illustrate how to search by specific antigens, epitopes or host. Other examples include searching for tetramers or epitopes restricted by specific alleles or assays of interest, or searching based on the clinical status of the host.
The inventory of all published diabetes epitope data facilitates its access for the scientific community. While the global collection of primary data from the literature reflects potential investigational biases present in the literature, the flexible search approach allows users to perform queries tailored to their preferences, including or excluding data as appropriate. Moreover, the analysis highlights knowledge gaps and identifies areas for future investigation.
PMCID: PMC4134942  PMID: 25140192
15.  CLO: The cell line ontology 
Cell lines have been widely used in biomedical research. The community-based Cell Line Ontology (CLO) is a member of the OBO Foundry library that covers the domain of cell lines. Since its publication two years ago, significant updates have been made, including new groups joining the CLO consortium, new cell line cells, upper level alignment with the Cell Ontology (CL) and the Ontology for Biomedical Investigation, and logical extensions.
Construction and content
Collaboration among the CLO, CL, and OBI has established consensus definitions of cell line-specific terms such as ‘cell line’, ‘cell line cell’, ‘cell line culturing’, and ‘mortal’ vs. ‘immortal cell line cell’. A cell line is a genetically stable cultured cell population that contains individual cell line cells. The hierarchical structure of the CLO is built based on the hierarchy of the in vivo cell types defined in CL and tissue types (from which cell line cells are derived) defined in the UBERON cross-species anatomy ontology. The new hierarchical structure makes it easier to browse, query, and perform automated classification. We have recently added classes representing more than 2,000 cell line cells from the RIKEN BRC Cell Bank to CLO. Overall, the CLO now contains ~38,000 classes of specific cell line cells derived from over 200 in vivo cell types from various organisms.
Utility and discussion
The CLO has been applied to different biomedical research studies. Example case studies include annotation and analysis of EBI ArrayExpress data, bioassays, and host-vaccine/pathogen interaction. CLO’s utility goes beyond a catalogue of cell line types. The alignment of the CLO with related ontologies combined with the use of ontological reasoners will support sophisticated inferencing to advance translational informatics development.
PMCID: PMC4387853  PMID: 25852852
Cell line; Cell line cell; Immortal cell line cell; Mortal cell line cell; Cell line cell culturing; Anatomy
17.  Dataset size and composition impact the reliability of performance benchmarks for peptide-MHC binding predictions 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(1):241.
It is important to accurately determine the performance of peptide:MHC binding predictions, as this enables users to compare and choose between different prediction methods and provides estimates of the expected error rate. Two common approaches to determine prediction performance are cross-validation, in which all available data are iteratively split into training and testing data, and the use of blind sets generated separately from the data used to construct the predictive method. In the present study, we have compared cross-validated prediction performances generated on our last benchmark dataset from 2009 with prediction performances generated on data subsequently added to the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) which served as a blind set.
We found that cross-validated performances systematically overestimated performance on the blind set. This was found not to be due to the presence of similar peptides in the cross-validation dataset. Rather, we found that small size and low sequence/affinity diversity of either training or blind datasets were associated with large differences in cross-validated vs. blind prediction performances. We use these findings to derive quantitative rules of how large and diverse datasets need to be to provide generalizable performance estimates.
It has long been known that cross-validated prediction performance estimates often overestimate performance on independently generated blind set data. We here identify and quantify the specific factors contributing to this effect for MHC-I binding predictions. An increasing number of peptides for which MHC binding affinities are measured experimentally have been selected based on binding predictions and thus are less diverse than historic datasets sampling the entire sequence and affinity space, making them more difficult benchmark data sets. This has to be taken into account when comparing performance metrics between different benchmarks, and when deriving error estimates for predictions based on benchmark performance.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2105-15-241) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4111843  PMID: 25017736
Benchmarking of MHC class I predictors; Epitope prediction; Sequence similarity; Cross-validation
18.  A strategy to determine HLA class II restriction broadly covering the DR, DP and DQ allelic variants most commonly expressed in the general population 
Immunogenetics  2013;65(5):357-370.
Classic ways to determine MHC restriction involve inhibition with locus specific antibodies and antigen presentation assays with panels of cell lines matched or mismatched at the various loci of interest. However, these determinations are often complicated by T-cell epitope degeneracy and promiscuity. We describe selection of 46 HLA DR, DQ and DP specificities that provide worldwide population (phenotypic) coverage of almost 90% at each locus, and account for over 66% of all genes at each locus. This panel afforded coverage of at least four HLA class II alleles in over 95% of the individuals in four study populations of diverse ethnicity from the US and South Africa. Next, a panel of single HLA class II transfected cell lines, corresponding to these 46 allelic variants was assembled, consisting of lines previously developed and 15 novel lines generated for the present study. The novel lines were validated by assessing their HLA class II expression by FACS analysis, the in vitro peptide binding activity of HLA molecules purified from the cell lines, and their antigen presenting capacity to T-cell lines of known restriction. We also show that these HLA class II transfected cell lines can be used to rapidly and unambiguously determine HLA restriction of epitopes recognized by an individual donor in a single experiment. This panel of lines will enable high throughput determination of HLA restriction, enabling better characterization of HLA class II-restricted T-cell responses and facilitating the development of HLA tetrameric staining reagents.
PMCID: PMC3633633  PMID: 23392739
HLA Class II; restriction; transfectants; epitopes; population coverage; polymorphism
19.  Bcl6 expressing follicular helper CD4 T cells are fate committed early and have the capacity to form memory 
Follicular helper CD4 T cells (Tfh) are a distinct type of differentiated CD4 T cells uniquely specialized for B cell help. Here we examined Tfh cell fate commitment, including distinguishing features of Tfh versus Th1 proliferation and survival. Using cell transfer approaches at early time points after an acute viral infection, we demonstrate that early Tfh cells and Th1 cells are already strongly cell fate committed by day three. Nevertheless, Tfh cell proliferation was tightly regulated in a TCR-dependent manner. The Tfh cells still depend on extrinsic cell fate cues from B cells in their physiological in vivo environment. Unexpectedly, we found that Tfh cells share a number of phenotypic parallels with memory precursor CD8 T cells, including selective upregulation of IL7Rα and a collection of co-regulated genes. As a consequence, the early Tfh cells can progress to robustly form memory cells. These data support the hypothesis that CD4 and CD8 T cells share core aspects of a memory cell precursor gene expression program involving Bcl6, and a strong relationship exists between Tfh cells and memory CD4 T cell development.
PMCID: PMC3626566  PMID: 23487426
Tfh cells; germinal center; LCMV infection; proliferation capacity; IL-7R; vaccine
20.  Broadly Reactive Human CD8 T Cells that Recognize an Epitope Conserved between VZV, HSV and EBV 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1004008.
Human herpesviruses are important causes of potentially severe chronic infections for which T cells are believed to be necessary for control. In order to examine the role of virus-specific CD8 T cells against Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), we generated a comprehensive panel of potential epitopes predicted in silico and screened for T cell responses in healthy VZV seropositive donors. We identified a dominant HLA-A*0201-restricted epitope in the VZV ribonucleotide reductase subunit 2 and used a tetramer to analyze the phenotype and function of epitope-specific CD8 T cells. Interestingly, CD8 T cells responding to this VZV epitope also recognized homologous epitopes, not only in the other α-herpesviruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2, but also the γ-herpesvirus, EBV. Responses against these epitopes did not depend on previous infection with the originating virus, thus indicating the cross-reactive nature of this T cell population. Between individuals, the cells demonstrated marked phenotypic heterogeneity. This was associated with differences in functional capacity related to increased inhibitory receptor expression (including PD-1) along with decreased expression of co-stimulatory molecules that potentially reflected their stimulation history. Vaccination with the live attenuated Zostavax vaccine did not efficiently stimulate a proliferative response in this epitope-specific population. Thus, we identified a human CD8 T cell epitope that is conserved in four clinically important herpesviruses but that was poorly boosted by the current adult VZV vaccine. We discuss the concept of a “pan-herpesvirus” vaccine that this discovery raises and the hurdles that may need to be overcome in order to achieve this.
Author Summary
Human herpesviruses can cause a wide range of serious infections. They are extremely common and individuals remain latently infected lifelong, with reactivations often causing recurrent or severe disease. T-cells are important in controlling herpesvirus infections and preventing their reactivation, so vaccines that induce T-cells are likely to improve control. Here, we examined human T-cells against VZV that might allow focused vaccine development. We identified a dominant target against which the majority of subjects had mounted a CD8 T-cell response. We found that very similar targets also exist in three other important herpesviruses, HSV-1, HSV-2 and EBV. We showed that CD8 T-cells recognizing the VZV target could also recognize the others and we hypothesized that recurrent encounter with these viruses could boost this common response. In some individuals, immunization with a VZV vaccine did cause activation of these cells, but in most it did not. This reflects the variable efficacy of the currently available VZV vaccine. Our findings suggest that T-cell targets may be shared between herpesvirus species and may therefore contribute to a novel “pan-herpesvirus” vaccine. However, current VZV vaccines cannot reliably stimulate these T-cells and new strategies will be necessary to achieve this goal.
PMCID: PMC3968128  PMID: 24675761
22.  Strategies to Query and Display Allergy-Derived Epitope Data from the Immune Epitope Database 
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.
PMCID: PMC3629817  PMID: 23172234
Allergy; Allergen; Epitope; Database
23.  Temporal Intra-Individual Variation of Immunological Biomarkers in Type 1 Diabetes Patients: Implications for Future Use in Cross-Sectional Assessment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79383.
Multiple immune parameters such as frequencies of autoreactive CD4+, CD8+ T-cells and CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-cells have been explored as biomarkers in human T1D. However, intra-individual temporal variation of these parameters has not been assessed systematically over time. We determined the variation in each of these parameters in a cohort of T1D and healthy donors (HDs), at monthly intervals for one year. Despite low intra- and inter-assay co-efficient of variation (CV), mean CVs for each of the immune parameters were 119.1% for CD4+ T-cell-derived IFN-γ, 50.44% for autoreactive CD8+ T-cells, and 31.24% for CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T-cells. Further, both HDs and T1D donors had similar CVs. The variation neither correlated with BMI, age, disease duration or insulin usage, nor were there detectable cyclical patterns of variation. However, averaging results from multiple visits for an individual provided a better estimate of the CV between visits. Based on our data we predict that by averaging values from three visits a treatment effect on these parameters with a 50% effect size could be detected with the same power using 1.8–4-fold fewer patients within a trial compared to using values from a single visit. Thus, our present data contribute to a more robust, accurate endpoint design for future clinical trials in T1D and aid in the identification of truly efficacious therapies.
PMCID: PMC3817042  PMID: 24223938
24.  Ex vivo tetramer staining and cell surface phenotyping for early activation markers CD38 and HLA-DR to enumerate and characterize malaria antigen-specific CD8+ T-cells induced in human volunteers immunized with a Plasmodium falciparum adenovirus-vectored malaria vaccine expressing AMA1 
Malaria Journal  2013;12:376.
Malaria is responsible for up to a 600,000 deaths per year; conveying an urgent need for the development of a malaria vaccine. Studies with whole sporozoite vaccines in mice and non-human primates have shown that sporozoite-induced CD8+ T cells targeting liver stage antigens can mediate sterile protection. There is a need for a direct method to identify and phenotype malaria vaccine-induced CD8+ T cells in humans.
Fluorochrome-labelled tetramers consisting of appropriate MHC class I molecules in complex with predicted binding peptides derived from Plasmodium falciparum AMA-1 were used to label ex vivo AMA-1 epitope specific CD8+ T cells from research subjects responding strongly to immunization with the NMRC-M3V-Ad-PfCA (adenovirus-vectored) malaria vaccine. The identification of these CD8+ T cells on the basis of their expression of early activation markers was also investigated.
Analyses by flow cytometry demonstrated that two of the six tetramers tested: TLDEMRHFY: HLA-A*01:01 and NEVVVKEEY: HLA-B*18:01, labelled tetramer-specific CD8+ T cells from two HLA-A*01:01 volunteers and one HLA-B*18:01 volunteer, respectively. By contrast, post-immune CD8+ T cells from all six of the immunized volunteers exhibited enhanced expression of the CD38 and HLA-DRhi early activation markers. For the three volunteers with positive tetramer staining, the early activation phenotype positive cells included essentially all of the tetramer positive, malaria epitope- specific CD8+ T cells suggesting that the early activation phenotype could identify all malaria vaccine-induced CD8+ T cells without prior knowledge of their exact epitope specificity.
The results demonstrated that class I tetramers can identify ex vivo malaria vaccine antigen-specific CD8+ T cells and could therefore be used to determine their frequency, cell surface phenotype and transcription factor usage. The results also demonstrated that vaccine antigen-specific CD8+ T cells could be identified by activation markers without prior knowledge of their antigen-specificity, using a subunit vaccine for proof-of-concept. Whether, whole parasite or adjuvanted protein vaccines will also induce {CD38 and HLA-DRhi}+ CD8+ T cell populations reflective of the antigen-specific response will the subject of future investigations.
PMCID: PMC3819688  PMID: 24168370
Malaria; CD8+ T cells; MHC-I tetramers; Activation markers
25.  Properties of MHC Class I Presented Peptides That Enhance Immunogenicity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(10):e1003266.
T-cells have to recognize peptides presented on MHC molecules to be activated and elicit their effector functions. Several studies demonstrate that some peptides are more immunogenic than others and therefore more likely to be T-cell epitopes. We set out to determine which properties cause such differences in immunogenicity. To this end, we collected and analyzed a large set of data describing the immunogenicity of peptides presented on various MHC-I molecules. Two main conclusions could be drawn from this analysis: First, in line with previous observations, we showed that positions P4–6 of a presented peptide are more important for immunogenicity. Second, some amino acids, especially those with large and aromatic side chains, are associated with immunogenicity. This information was combined into a simple model that was used to demonstrate that immunogenicity is, to a certain extent, predictable. This model (made available at was validated with data from two independent epitope discovery studies. Interestingly, with this model we could show that T-cells are equipped to better recognize viral than human (self) peptides. After the past successful elucidation of different steps in the MHC-I presentation pathway, the identification of variables that influence immunogenicity will be an important next step in the investigation of T-cell epitopes and our understanding of cellular immune responses.
Author Summary
T-cells have to recognize peptides presented on MHC molecules to be activated and elicit their effector functions. Some peptide-MHC-I complexes (pMHCs) are better recognized by T-cells; we call such pMHCs more immunogenic. For other pMHCs, no recognizing T-cells seem to exist; we call such pMHCs non-immunogenic. We set out to determine which properties of pMHCs cause such differences in immunogenicity, by carefully collecting a large set of immunogenic and non-immunogenic pMHCs, and analysing the difference between these sets. Two important observations were made: First, in line with previous observations, we showed that positions P4–6 of a presented peptide are more important for immunogenicity. Second, some amino acids, especially those with large and aromatic side chains, seem to be better recognized by T-cells as they associate with immunogenicity. Next, this information was combined into a simple model to predict the immunogenicity of new pMHCs (this model is made available at Interestingly, with this model we could show that T-cells are equipped to strongly recognize viral peptides. After the past successful elucidation of different steps in the MHC-I presentation pathway, the identification of variables that influence immunogenicity will be an important next step in the investigation of T-cell epitopes and our understanding of cellular immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3808449  PMID: 24204222

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