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1.  Brucella melitensis T Cell Epitope Recognition in Humans with Brucellosis in Peru 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(1):124-131.
Brucella melitensis, one of the causative agents of human brucellosis, causes acute, chronic, and relapsing infection. While T cell immunity in brucellosis has been extensively studied in mice, no recognized human T cell epitopes that might provide new approaches to classifying and prognosticating B. melitensis infection have ever been delineated. Twenty-seven pools of 500 major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) restricted peptides were created by computational prediction of promiscuous MHC-II CD4+ T cell derived from the top 50 proteins recognized by IgG in human sera on a genome level B. melitensis protein microarray. Gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and interleukin-5 (IL-5) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) analyses were used to quantify and compare Th1 and Th2 responses of leukapheresis-obtained peripheral blood mononuclear cells from Peruvian subjects cured after acute infection (n = 9) and from patients who relapsed (n = 5). Four peptide epitopes derived from 3 B. melitensis proteins (BMEI 1330, a DegP/HtrA protease; BMEII 0029, type IV secretion system component VirB5; and BMEII 0691, a predicted periplasmic binding protein of a peptide transport system) were found repeatedly to produce significant IFN-γ ELISPOT responses in both acute-infection and relapsing patients; none of the peptides distinguished the patient groups. IL-5 responses against the panel of peptides were insignificant. These experiments are the first to systematically identify B. melitensis MHC-II-restricted CD4+ T cell epitopes recognized by the human immune response, with the potential for new approaches to brucellosis diagnostics and understanding the immunopathogenesis related to this intracellular pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3911835  PMID: 24126518
2.  Asymptomatic HLA-A*02:01–Restricted Epitopes from Herpes Simplex Virus Glycoprotein B Preferentially Recall Polyfunctional CD8+ T Cells from Seropositive Asymptomatic Individuals and Protect HLA Transgenic Mice against Ocular Herpes 
Evidence from C57BL/6 mice suggests that CD8+ T cells, specific to the immunodominant HSV-1 glycoprotein B (gB) H-2b–restricted epitope (gB498–505), protect against ocular herpes infection and disease. However, the possible role of CD8+ T cells, specific to HLA-restricted gB epitopes, in protective immunity seen in HSV-1–seropositive asymptomatic (ASYMP) healthy individuals (who have never had clinical herpes) remains to be determined. In this study, we used multiple prediction algorithms to identify 10 potential HLA-A*02:01–restricted CD8+ T cell epitopes from the HSV-1 gB amino acid sequence. Six of these epitopes exhibited high-affinity binding to HLA-A*02:01 molecules. In 10 sequentially studied HLA-A*02:01–positive, HSV-1–seropositive ASYMP individuals, the most frequent, robust, and polyfunctional CD8+ T cell responses, as assessed by a combination of tetramer, IFN-γ-ELISPOT, CFSE proliferation, CD107a/b cytotoxic degranulation, and multiplex cytokine assays, were directed mainly against epitopes gB342–350 and gB561–569. In contrast, in 10 HLA-A*02:01–positive, HSV-1–seropositive symptomatic (SYMP) individuals (with a history of numerous episodes of recurrent clinical herpes disease) frequent, but less robust, CD8+ T cell responses were directed mainly against nonoverlapping epitopes (gB183–191 and gB441–449). ASYMP individuals had a significantly higher proportion of HSV-gB–specific CD8+ T cells expressing CD107a/b degranulation marker and producing effector cytokines IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α than did SYMP individuals. Moreover, immunization of a novel herpes-susceptible HLA-A*02:01 transgenic mouse model with ASYMP epitopes, but not with SYMP epitopes, induced strong CD8+ T cell–dependent protective immunity against ocular herpes infection and disease. These findings should guide the development of a safe and effective T cell–based herpes vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4057607  PMID: 24101547
3.  Sculpting MHC class II-restricted self and non-self peptidome by the class I antigen-processing machinery and its impact on CD4+ TCR repertoire and Th cell responses 
European journal of immunology  2013;43(5):1162-1172.
It is generally assumed that the MHC class I antigen (Ag)-processing (CAP) machinery —which supplies peptides for presentation by class I molecules— plays no role in class II-restricted presentation of cytoplasmic Ags. In striking contrast to this assumption, we previously reported that proteasome inhibition or TAP- or ERAAP-deficiency led to dramatically altered T helper (Th) cell responses to allograft (HY) and microbial (Listeria monocytogenes) Ags. Herein, we tested whether altered Ag processing and presentation, altered CD4+ T cell repertoire, or both underlay the above finding. We found that TAP- and ERAAP-deficiency dramatically altered the quality of class II-associated self peptides suggesting that the CAP machinery impacts class II-restricted Ag processing and presentation. Consistent with altered self peptidomes, the CD4+ T cell receptor repertoire of mice deficient in the CAP machinery substantially differed from that of wildtype animals resulting in altered CD4+ T cell Ag recognition patterns. These data suggest that TAP and ERAAP sculpt the class II-restricted peptidome, impacting the CD4+ T cell repertoire, and ultimately altering Th cell responses. Together with our previous findings, these data suggest multiple CAP machinery components sequester or degrade MHC class II-restricted epitopes that would otherwise be capable of eliciting functional Th cell responses.
PMCID: PMC3798073  PMID: 23386199
antigen presentation; mass spectrometry; T helper cells; self peptidome; MHC
4.  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
5.  Peptide binding motifs associated with MHC molecules common in Chinese rhesus macaques are analogous to those of human HLA supertypes, and include HLA-B27-like alleles 
Immunogenetics  2013;65(5):371-386.
Chinese rhesus macaques are of particular interest in SIV/HIV research as these animals have prolonged kinetics of disease progression to AIDS, compared to their Indian counterparts, suggesting that they may be a better model for HIV. Nevertheless, the specific mechanism(s) accounting for these kinetics remains unclear. The study of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules, including their MHC:peptide binding motifs, provides valuable information for measuring cellular immune responses and deciphering outcomes of infection and vaccine efficacy. In this study, we have provided detailed characterization of six prevalent Chinese rhesus macaque MHC class I alleles, yielding a combined phenotypic frequency of 29%. The peptide binding specificity of two of these alleles, Mamu-A2*01:02 and -B*010:01, as well as the previously characterized allele Mamu-B*003:01 (and Indian rhesus Mamu-B*003:01), was found to be analogous to that of alleles in the HLA-B27 supertype family. Specific alleles in the HLA-B27 supertype family, including HLA-B*27:05, have been associated with long-term non-progression to AIDS in humans. All six alleles characterized in the present study were found to have specificities analogous to HLA-supertype alleles. These data contribute to the concept that Chinese rhesus macaque MHC immunogenetics is more similar to HLA than their Indian rhesus macaque counterparts, and thereby warrant further studies to decipher the role of these alleles in the context of SIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3633659  PMID: 23417323
MHC; non-human primate; Chinese rhesus macaques; MHC:peptide binding motif
6.  Relapse or eradication of cancer is predicted by peptide-MHC affinity 
Cancer cell  2013;23(4):516-526.
Cancers often relapse after adoptive therapy, even though specific T cells kill cells from the same cancer efficiently in vitro. We found that tumor eradication by T cells required high affinities of the targeted peptides for MHC class I. Affinities of at least 10 nM were required for relapse-free regression. Only high-affinity peptide-MHC interactions led to efficient cross-presentation of antigen, thereby stimulating cognate T cells to secrete cytokines. These findings highlight the importance of targeting peptides with high affinity for MHC class I when designing T cell-based immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3658176  PMID: 23597565
7.  Association of HLA-DRB1-restricted CD4+ T cell responses with HIV immune control 
Nature medicine  2013;19(7):930-933.
The contribution of HLA class II-restricted CD4+ T cell responses to HIV immune control is poorly defined. Here, we delineated novel peptide-DRB1 restrictions in functional assays and analyzed the host genetic effects of HLA-DRB1 alleles on HIV viremia in a large cohort of HIV controllers and progressors (n=1085). We found distinct stratifications in the effect of HLA-DRB1 alleles on HIV viremia, with DRB1*15:02 significantly associated with low viremia (P=0.003, q=0.04) and DRB1*03:01 significantly associated with high viremia (P=0.004, q=0.04). Interestingly, a sub-group of HLA-DRB1 alleles linked with low viremia showed the ability to promiscuously present a larger breadth of peptides with lower functional avidity when compared to HLA-DRB1 alleles linked with high viremia (p=0.018). Our data provide systematic evidence that HLA-DRB1 allele expression significantly impacts the durable control of HIV replication, an effect that appears to be mediated primarily by the protein-specificity of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses to Gag and Nef.
PMCID: PMC3974408  PMID: 23793098
8.  Immunization with Apical Membrane Antigen 1 Confers Sterile Infection-Blocking Immunity against Plasmodium Sporozoite Challenge in a Rodent Model 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(10):3586-3599.
Apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA-1) is a leading blood-stage malaria vaccine candidate. Consistent with a key role in erythrocytic invasion, AMA-1-specific antibodies have been implicated in AMA-1-induced protective immunity. AMA-1 is also expressed in sporozoites and in mature liver schizonts where it may be a target of protective cell-mediated immunity. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that immunization with AMA-1 can induce sterile infection-blocking immunity against Plasmodium sporozoite challenge in 80% of immunized mice. Significantly higher levels of gamma interferon (IFN-γ)/interleukin-2 (IL-2)/tumor necrosis factor (TNF) multifunctional T cells were noted in immunized mice than in control mice. We also report the first identification of minimal CD8+ and CD4+ T cell epitopes on Plasmodium yoelii AMA-1. These data establish AMA-1 as a target of both preerythrocytic- and erythrocytic-stage protective immune responses and validate vaccine approaches designed to induce both cellular and humoral immunity.
PMCID: PMC3811765  PMID: 23836827
9.  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
10.  CD8+ T-Cell Epitope Mapping for Pneumonia Virus of Mice in H-2b Mice 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(17):9949-9952.
The paramyxovirus pneumonia virus of mice (PVM) is a rodent model of human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) pathogenesis. Here we characterized the PVM-specific CD8+ T-cell repertoire in susceptible C57BL/6 mice. In total, 15 PVM-specific CD8+ T-cell epitopes restricted by H-2Db and/or H-2Kb were identified. These data open the door for using widely profiled, genetically manipulated C57BL/6 mice to study the contribution of epitope-specific CD8+ T cells to PVM pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3754129  PMID: 23824814
11.  Measurement of MHC/Peptide Interactions by Gel Filtration or Monoclonal Antibody Capture 
This unit describes a technique for the direct and quantitative measurement of the capacity of peptide ligands to bind Class I and Class II MHC molecules. The binding of a peptide of interest to MHC is assessed based on its ability to inhibit the binding of a radiolabeled probe peptide to purified MHC molecules. This unit includes protocols for the purification of Class I and Class II MHC molecules by affinity chromatography, and for the radiolabeling of peptides using the chloramine T method. An alternate protocol describes alterations in the basic protocol that are necessary when performing direct binding assays, which are required for (1) selecting appropriate high-affinity, assay-specific, radiolabeled ligands, and (2) determining the amount of MHC necessary to yield assays with the highest sensitivity. After a predetermined incubation period, dependent upon the allele under examination, the bound and unbound radiolabeled species are separated, and their relative amounts are determined. Three methods for separation are described, two utilizing size-exclusion gel-filtration chromatography and a third using monoclonal antibody capture of MHC. Data analysis for each method is also explained.
PMCID: PMC3626435  PMID: 23392640
MHC class I; MHC class II; T cell epitope; peptide ligand; binding affinity; CTL; epitope recognition
12.  Prolonged Exposure to HIV Reinforces a Poised Epigenetic Program for PD-1 Expression in Virus-specific CD8 T Cells 
Antigen-specific CD8 T cells play a critical role in controlling HIV infection but eventually lose antiviral functions in part because of expression and signaling through the inhibitory PD-1 receptor. To better understand the impact of prolonged TCR ligation on regulation of PD-1 expression in HIV-specific CD8 T cells we investigated the capacity of virus-specific CD8 T cells to modify the PD-1 epigenetic program following reduction in viral load. We observed that the transcriptional regulatory region was unmethylated in the PD-1hi HIV-specific CD8 T cells while it remained methylated in donor matched naïve cells at acute and chronic stages of infection. Surprisingly, the PD-1 promoter remained unmethylated in HIV-specific CD8 T cells from subjects with a viral load controlled by antiviral therapy for greater than 2 years or from elite controllers. Together these data demonstrate that the epigenetic program at the PD-1 locus becomes fixed following prolonged exposure to HIV virus.
PMCID: PMC3702641  PMID: 23772031
14.  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
15.  T-Cell Immunity to Infection with Dengue Virus in Humans 
Dengue virus (DENV) is the etiologic agent of dengue fever, the most significant mosquito-borne viral disease in humans. Up to 400 million DENV infections occur every year, and severity can range from asymptomatic to an acute self-limiting febrile illness. In a small proportion of patients, the disease can exacerbate and progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever and/or dengue shock syndrome, characterized by severe vascular leakage, thrombocytopenia, and hemorrhagic manifestations. A unique challenge in vaccine development against DENV is the high degree of sequence variation, characteristically associated with RNA viruses. This is of particular relevance in the case of DENV since infection with one DENV serotype (primary infection) presumably affords life-long serotype-specific immunity but only partial and temporary immunity to other serotypes in secondary infection settings. The role of T cells in DENV infection and subsequent disease manifestations is not fully understood. According to the original antigenic sin theory, skewing of T-cell responses induced by primary infection with one serotype causes less effective response upon secondary infection with a different serotype, predisposing to severe disease. Our recent study has suggested an HLA-linked protective role for T cells. Herein, we will discuss the role of T cells in protection and pathogenesis from severe disease as well as the implications for vaccine design.
PMCID: PMC3945531  PMID: 24639680
DENV; T cells; protection; pathogenesis; HLA; vaccines
16.  Definition of CD4 Immunosignatures Associated with MTB 
We have recently described the first true genome-wide screen for CD4+ T-cell reactivity directed against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) in latent TB-infected individuals. The approach relied on predictions of HLA-binding capacity for a panel of DR, DP, and DQ alleles representative of those most commonly expressed in the general population, coupled with high throughput ELISPOT assays. The results identified hundreds of novel epitopes and antigens, and documented the novel observation that T cells in latent MTB infection are confined to the CXCR3+CCR6+ phenotype and largely directed against three antigenic “islands” within the MTB genome. In parallel, we have made generally available to the scientific community the technical approaches and reagents developed in the process, such as motifs, algorithms, and binding assays for several common HLA class II alleles, and a panel of single allele HLA class II transfected cell lines representative of the most frequent specificities in the general population. Recent efforts have been focused on characterization of epitopes and antigens recognized by patients with active TB and individuals vaccinated with BCG, with the aim of providing the first systematic evaluation of the overlap between latent, active, and BCG cohorts. The definition of a broad range of epitopes restricted by common HLA molecules, will facilitate development of diagnostic reagents, allow a rigorous evaluation of T-cell responses associated with TB infection in humans, and enable the evaluation of the immunogenicity of different vaccine candidates. Furthermore, it might suggest new candidates for vaccine and diagnostic development.
PMCID: PMC3970006  PMID: 24715893
tuberculosis; T cells; epitope; HLA; genome-wide
17.  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
18.  Identification of Conserved and HLA Promiscuous DENV3 T-Cell Epitopes 
Anti-dengue T-cell responses have been implicated in both protection and immunopathology. However, most of the T-cell studies for dengue include few epitopes, with limited knowledge of their inter-serotype variation and the breadth of their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) affinity. In order to expand our knowledge of HLA-restricted dengue epitopes, we screened T-cell responses against 477 overlapping peptides derived from structural and non-structural proteins of the dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV3) by use of HLA class I and II transgenic mice (TgM): A2, A24, B7, DR2, DR3 and DR4. TgM were inoculated with peptides pools and the T-cell immunogenic peptides were identified by ELISPOT. Nine HLA class I and 97 HLA class II novel DENV3 epitopes were identified based on immunogenicity in TgM and their HLA affinity was further confirmed by binding assays analysis. A subset of these epitopes activated memory T-cells from DENV3 immune volunteers and was also capable of priming naïve T-cells, ex vivo, from dengue IgG negative individuals. Analysis of inter- and intra-serotype variation of such an epitope (A02-restricted) allowed us to identify altered peptide ligands not only in DENV3 but also in other DENV serotypes. These studies also characterized the HLA promiscuity of 23 HLA class II epitopes bearing highly conserved sequences, six of which could bind to more than 10 different HLA molecules representing a large percentage of the global population. These epitope data are invaluable to investigate the role of T-cells in dengue immunity/pathogenesis and vaccine design.
Author Summary
Although there is an increased recognition of the role of T-cells in both dengue pathogenesis and protection, comprehensive analysis of T-cell activation during dengue infection is hampered by the small repertoire of known human dengue T-cell epitopes. Although dengue serotype 3 (DENV3) is responsible for numerous outbreaks worldwide, most of the known epitopes are from studies of dengue 2 serotype (DENV2). In this study, we identified novel DENV3 T-cell epitopes in HLA transgenic mice that were confirmed by HLA binding assays. A subset of these epitopes activated memory T-cells from subjects who were dengue IgG positive and primed naïve T-cells from dengue IgG negative individuals. Notably, some of HLA class II epitopes bearing highly conserved regions common to all four dengue serotypes could bind to multiple HLAs. We postulate that these highly conserved and HLA promiscuous T-helper epitopes can be important components of a dengue tetravalent vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3794980  PMID: 24130917
19.  Evaluating the Immunogenicity of Protein Drugs by Applying In Vitro MHC Binding Data and the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource 
The immune system has evolved to become highly specialized in recognizing and responding to pathogens and foreign molecules. Specifically, the function of HLA class II is to ensure that a sufficient sample of peptides derived from foreign molecules is presented to T cells. This leads to an important concern in human drug development as the possible immunogenicity of biopharmaceuticals, especially those intended for chronic administration, can lead to reduced efficacy and an undesired safety profile for biological therapeutics. As part of this review, we will highlight the molecular basis of antigen presentation as a key step in the induction of T cell responses, emphasizing the events associated with peptide binding to polymorphic and polygenic HLA class II molecules. We will further review methodologies that predict HLA class II binding peptides and candidate epitopes. We will focus on tools provided by the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource, discussing the basic features of different prediction methods, the objective evaluation of prediction quality, and general guidelines for practical use of these tools. Finally the use, advantages, and limitations of the methodology will be demonstrated in a review of two previous studies investigating the immunogenicity of erythropoietin and timothy grass pollen.
PMCID: PMC3816028  PMID: 24222776
21.  T cell responses to known allergen proteins are differently polarized and account for a variable fraction of total response to allergen extracts1 
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).
PMCID: PMC3411923  PMID: 22786768
22.  Local CD4 and CD8 T-Cell Reactivity to HSV-1 Antigens Documents Broad Viral Protein Expression and Immune Competence in Latently Infected Human Trigeminal Ganglia 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003547.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection results in lifelong chronic infection of trigeminal ganglion (TG) neurons, also referred to as neuronal HSV-1 latency, with periodic reactivation leading to recrudescent herpetic disease in some persons. HSV-1 proteins are expressed in a temporally coordinated fashion during lytic infection, but their expression pattern during latent infection is largely unknown. Selective retention of HSV-1 reactive T-cells in human TG suggests their role in controlling reactivation by recognizing locally expressed HSV-1 proteins. We characterized the HSV-1 proteins recognized by virus-specific CD4 and CD8 T-cells recovered from human HSV-1–infected TG. T-cell clusters, consisting of both CD4 and CD8 T-cells, surrounded neurons and expressed mRNAs and proteins consistent with in situ antigen recognition and antiviral function. HSV-1 proteome-wide scans revealed that intra-TG T-cell responses included both CD4 and CD8 T-cells directed to one to three HSV-1 proteins per person. HSV-1 protein ICP6 was targeted by CD8 T-cells in 4 of 8 HLA-discordant donors. In situ tetramer staining demonstrated HSV-1-specific CD8 T-cells juxtaposed to TG neurons. Intra-TG retention of virus-specific CD4 T-cells, validated to the HSV-1 peptide level, implies trafficking of viral proteins from neurons to HLA class II-expressing non-neuronal cells for antigen presentation. The diversity of viral proteins targeted by TG T-cells across all kinetic and functional classes of viral proteins suggests broad HSV-1 protein expression, and viral antigen processing and presentation, in latently infected human TG. Collectively, the human TG represents an immunocompetent environment for both CD4 and CD8 T-cell recognition of HSV-1 proteins expressed during latent infection. HSV-1 proteins recognized by TG-resident T-cells, particularly ICP6 and VP16, are potential HSV-1 vaccine candidates.
Author Summary
HSV-1 is an endemic human herpesvirus worldwide that establishes a lifelong latent infection of neurons in the trigeminal ganglion (TG), allowing intermittent reactivation resulting in recurrent disease in some persons. Studies in HSV-1 models suggest a central role of TG-infiltrating virus-specific CD8 T-cells to control reactivation. In humans, however, the functional properties and fine specificity of intra-TG T-cell responses remain enigmatic. The current study used molecular, immunological and in situ analysis platforms on human cadaveric TG obtained within hours after death to characterize the local HSV-1 specific T-cell response in latently infected human TG in detail. We identified that CD4 and CD8 T-cells were juxtaposed to TG neurons and expressed host transcripts and proteins consistent with in situ antigen recognition and antiviral function. The intra-TG T-cell response, involving both CD4 and CD8 T-cells, was directed to a limited set of HSV-1 proteins per person, which was not limited to a specific kinetic or structural class of viral proteins. Collectively, the data indicate that the human TG is an immunocompetent environment for CD4 and CD8 T-cell recognition of diverse HSV-1 proteins expressed during latent infection and that the viral antigens identified herein are rational candidates for HSV-1 subunit vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3744444  PMID: 23966859
23.  Increased CD8+ T cell responses to apoptotic T cell-associated antigens in multiple sclerosis 
Here, we evaluated the hypothesis that CD8+ T cell responses to caspase-cleaved antigens derived from effector T cells undergoing apoptosis, may contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) immunopathology.
The percentage of autoreactive CD8+ T effector cells specific for various apoptotic T cell-associated self-epitopes (apoptotic epitopes) were detected in the peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by both enzyme-linked immunospot and dextramers of class I molecules complexed with relevant apoptotic epitopes. Moreover, the capacity of dextramer+ CD8+ T cells to produce interferon (IFN)-γ and/or interleukin (IL)-17 in response to the relevant apoptotic epitopes was evaluated by the intracellular cytokine staining. Cross-presentation assay of apoptotic T cells by dendritic cells was also evaluated ex vivo.
We found that polyfunctional (IFN-γ and/or IL-17 producing) autoreactive CD8+ T cells specific for apoptotic epitopes were represented in MS patients with frequencies significantly higher than in healthy donors. These autoreactive CD8+ T cells with a strong potential to produce IFN-γ or IL-17 in response to the relevant apoptotic epitopes were significantly accumulated in the CSF from the same patients. In addition, the frequencies of these autoreactive CD8+ T cells correlated with the disease disability. Cross-presentation assay revealed that caspase-cleaved cellular proteins are required to activate apoptotic epitope-specific CD8+ T cells ex vivo.
Taken together, these data indicate that apoptotic epitope-specific CD8+ T cells with strong inflammatory potential are recruited at the level of the inflammatory site, where they may be involved in MS immunopathology through the production of high levels of inflammatory cytokines.
PMCID: PMC3734107  PMID: 23890271
Apoptosis; CD8+ T cells; Multiple sclerosis
24.  Analysis of T cell responses to the major allergens from German cockroach: epitope specificity and relationship to IgE production1 
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.
PMCID: PMC3392449  PMID: 22706084
25.  The Role of MHC Class I Allele Mamu-*07 During SIVmac239 Infection 
Immunogenetics  2011;63(12):789-807.
Virus-specific CD8+ T cells play an important role in controlling HIV/SIV replication. These T cells recognize intracellular pathogen-derived peptides displayed on the cell surface by individual MHC class I molecules. In the SIV-infected rhesus macaque model, five Mamu class I alleles have been thoroughly characterized with regard to peptide binding, and a sixth was shown to be uninvolved. In this study, we describe the peptide binding of Mamu-A1*007:01 (formerly Mamu-A*07), an allele present in roughly 5.08% of Indian-origin rhesus macaques (n=63 of 1240). We determined a preliminary binding motif by eluting and sequencing endogenously bound ligands. Subsequently, we used a positional scanning combinatorial library and panels of single amino acid substitution analogs to further characterize peptide binding of this allele and derive a quantitative motif. Using this motif, we selected and tested 200 peptides derived from SIVmac239 for their capacity to bind Mamu-A1*007:01, 33 were found to bind with an affinity of 500nM or better. We then used PBMC from SIV-infected or vaccinated but uninfected, A1*007:01-positive rhesus macaques in IFN-γ Elispot assays to screen the peptides for T cell reactivity. In all, eleven of the peptides elicited IFN-γ+ T cell responses. Six represent novel A1*007:01-restricted epitopes. Furthermore, both Sanger and ultra-deep pyrosequencing demonstrated the accumulation of amino acid substitutions within four of these six regions, suggestive of selective pressure on the virus by antigen-specific CD8+ T cells. Thus, it appears that Mamu-A1*007:01 presents SIV-derived peptides to antigen-specific CD8+ T cells and is part of the immune response to SIVmac239.
PMCID: PMC3706270  PMID: 21732180
SIV; MHC; Macaque; Epitope; Escape

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