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author:("Yusim, marina")
1.  Hepatitis C Genotype 1 Mosaic Vaccines Are Immunogenic in Mice and Induce Stronger T-Cell Responses than Natural Strains 
Despite improved hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments, vaccines remain an effective and economic option for curtailing the epidemic. Mosaic protein HCV genotype 1 vaccine candidates designed to address HCV diversity were immunogenic in mice. They elicited stronger T-cell responses to NS3-NS4a and E1-E2 proteins than did natural strains, as assessed with vaccine-matched peptides.
PMCID: PMC3571268  PMID: 23221002
2.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis – Heterogeneity Revealed Through Whole Genome Sequencing 
The emergence of whole genome sequencing (WGS) technologies as primary research tools has allowed for the detection of genetic diversity in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) with unprecedented resolution. WGS has been used to address a broad range of topics, including the dynamics of evolution, transmission and treatment. Here, we have analyzed 55 publically available genomes to reconstruct the phylogeny of Mtb, and we have addressed complications that arise during the analysis of publically available WGS data. Additionally, we have reviewed the application of WGS to the study of Mtb and discuss those areas still to be addressed, moving from global (phylogeography), to local (transmission chains and circulating strain diversity), to the single patient (clonal heterogeneity) and to the bacterium itself (evolutionary studies). Finally, we discuss the current WGS approaches, their strengths and limitations.
PMCID: PMC3323677  PMID: 22218163
Whole genome sequencing; evolution; heterogeneity; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
3.  Designing and Testing Broadly-Protective Filoviral Vaccines Optimized for Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitope Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44769.
We report the rational design and in vivo testing of mosaic proteins for a polyvalent pan-filoviral vaccine using a computational strategy designed for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) but also appropriate for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and potentially other diverse viruses. Mosaics are sets of artificial recombinant proteins that are based on natural proteins. The recombinants are computationally selected using a genetic algorithm to optimize the coverage of potential cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. Because evolutionary history differs markedly between HIV-1 and filoviruses, we devised an adapted computational technique that is effective for sparsely sampled taxa; our first significant result is that the mosaic technique is effective in creating high-quality mosaic filovirus proteins. The resulting coverage of potential epitopes across filovirus species is superior to coverage by any natural variants, including current vaccine strains with demonstrated cross-reactivity. The mosaic cocktails are also robust: mosaics substantially outperformed natural strains when computationally tested against poorly sampled species and more variable genes. Furthermore, in a computational comparison of cross-reactive potential a design constructed prior to the Bundibugyo outbreak performed nearly as well against all species as an updated design that included Bundibugyo. These points suggest that the mosaic designs would be more resilient than natural-variant vaccines against future Ebola outbreaks dominated by novel viral variants. We demonstrate in vivo immunogenicity and protection against a heterologous challenge in a mouse model. This design work delineates the likely requirements and limitations on broadly-protective filoviral CTL vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3463593  PMID: 23056184
4.  Extensive HLA class I allele promiscuity among viral CTL epitopes 
European journal of immunology  2007;37(9):2419-2433.
Promiscuous binding of T helper epitopes to MHC class II molecules has been well established, but few examples of promiscuous class I restricted epitopes exist. To address the extent of promiscuity of HLA class I peptides, responses to 242 well-defined viral epitopes were tested in 100 subjects regardless of the individuals’ HLA type. Surprisingly, half of all detected responses were seen in the absence of the originally reported restricting HLA class I allele, and only 3% of epitopes were recognized exclusively in the presence of their original allele. Functional assays confirmed the frequent recognition of HLA class I-restricted T cell epitopes on several alternative alleles across HLA class I supertypes and encoded on different class I loci. These data have significant implications for the understanding of MHC class I restricted antigen presentation and vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC2628559  PMID: 17705138
CD8 T cells; HIV; Immune Responses; Antigen Presentation/Processing; Bioinformatics
5.  Transmission of HIV-1 Gag immune escape mutations is associated with reduced viral load in linked recipients 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(5):1009-1017.
In a study of 114 epidemiologically linked Zambian transmission pairs, we evaluated the impact of human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I)–associated amino acid polymorphisms, presumed to reflect cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) escape in Gag and Nef of the virus transmitted from the chronically infected donor, on the plasma viral load (VL) in matched recipients 6 mo after infection. CTL escape mutations in Gag and Nef were seen in the donors, which were subsequently transmitted to recipients, largely unchanged soon after infection. We observed a significant correlation between the number of Gag escape mutations targeted by specific HLA-B allele–restricted CTLs and reduced VLs in the recipients. This negative correlation was most evident in newly infected individuals, whose HLA alleles were unable to effectively target Gag and select for CTL escape mutations in this gene. Nef mutations in the donor had no impact on VL in the recipient. Thus, broad Gag-specific CTL responses capable of driving virus escape in the donor may be of clinical benefit to both the donor and recipient. In addition to their direct implications for HIV-1 vaccine design, these data suggest that CTL-induced viral polymorphisms and their associated in vivo viral fitness costs could have a significant impact on HIV-1 pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2373834  PMID: 18426987
6.  Immunological control of chronic HIV-1 infection: HLA-mediated immune function and viral evolution in adolescents 
AIDS (London, England)  2007;21(18):2387-2397.
Differential protein targeting by HIV-specific CD8 T cells is associated with disparate plasma viral loads; however, it is unclear if the quality of these responses differs depending upon the specificity of the targeted epitopes.
We examined HIV-specific CD8 T-cell responses in HIV-infected adolescents carrying either an HLA class I allele associated with a favorable prognosis (HLA-B*57) or an allele associated with usual disease progression (HLA-B*35 or HLA-B*53) using interferon-γ ELISpot and ICS assays.
In an interferon-γ ELISpot assay, p24 was the dominant protein targeted by B*57 carriers while responses to Nef dominated in B*35 or B*53 positive carriers. This differential protein targeting did not change during 4 years of follow-up. In these chronically infected adolescents, there were no significant differences in the quality of the immunodominant T-cell responses between the B*57 and B*35/B*53 carriers as measured by peptide avidity, degranulation, and immune memory markers. There was a trend towards higher expression of interleukin-2 from B*57-KF11 restricted CD8 T cells although this difference was not significant. Nevertheless both B*57 and B*35/53-restricted responses were relatively potent as reflected by the propensity of CD8 T cells to escape in p24 and Nef, respectively.
Differential protein targeting rather than the quality of T-cell responses appears to be a major distinguishing feature of HIV-specific CD8 T cells induced in B*57 carriers. These data suggest that viral fitness costs associated with CD8 T-cell pressure is an important factor determining differences in the viral load among HIV-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC2268022  PMID: 18025875
adolescents; CD8 T-cells; Gag; HIV-1; HLA-Class I; Nef
7.  The hepatitis C sequence database in Los Alamos 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D512-D516.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a significant public health threat worldwide. The virus is highly variable and evolves rapidly, making it an elusive target for the immune system and for vaccine and drug design. Presently, ∼50 000 HCV sequences have been published. A central website that provides annotated sequences and analysis tools will be helpful to HCV scientists worldwide. The HCV sequence database collects and annotates sequence data, and provides them to the public via a website that contains a user-friendly search interface and a large number of sequence analysis tools, following the model of the highly regarded and widely used Los Alamos HIV database. The HCV website can be accessed via and
PMCID: PMC2238885  PMID: 18025038
8.  Role of Maternal Autologous Neutralizing Antibody in Selective Perinatal Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Escape Variants 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(13):6525-6533.
Perinatal human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission is characterized by acquisition of a homogeneous viral quasispecies, yet the selective factors responsible for this genetic bottleneck are unclear. We examined the role of maternal autologous neutralizing antibody (aNAB) in selective transmission of HIV-1 escape variants to infants. Maternal sera from 38 infected mothers at the time of delivery were assayed for autologous neutralizing antibody activity against maternal time-of-delivery HIV-1 isolates in vitro. Maternal sera were also tested for cross-neutralization of infected-infant-first-positive-time-point viral isolates. Heteroduplex and DNA sequence analyses were then performed to identify the initial infecting virus as a neutralization-sensitive or escape HIV-1 variant. In utero transmitters (n = 14) were significantly less likely to have aNAB to their own HIV-1 strains at delivery than nontransmitting mothers (n = 17, 14.3% versus 76.5%, P = 0.003). Cross-neutralization assays of infected-infant-first-positive-time-point HIV-1 isolates indicated that while 14/21 HIV-1-infected infant first positive time point isolates were resistant to their own mother's aNAB, no infant isolate was inherently resistant to antibody neutralization by all sera tested. Furthermore, both heteroduplex (n = 21) and phylogenetic (n = 9) analyses showed that selective perinatal transmission and/or outgrowth of maternal autologous neutralization escape HIV-1 variants occurs in utero and intrapartum. These data indicate that maternal autologous neutralizing antibody can exert powerful protective and selective effects in perinatal HIV-1 transmission and therefore has important implications for vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC1488973  PMID: 16775339
9.  Immunoinformatics Comes of Age 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(6):e71.
With the burgeoning immunological data in the scientific literature, scientists must increasingly rely on Internet resources to inform and enhance their work. Here we provide a brief overview of the adaptive immune response and summaries of immunoinformatics resources, emphasizing those with Web interfaces. These resources include searchable databases of epitopes and immune-related molecules, and analysis tools for T cell and B cell epitope prediction, vaccine design, and protein structure comparisons. There is an agreeable synergy between the growing collections in immune-related databases and the growing sophistication of analysis software; the databases provide the foundation for developing predictive computational tools, which in turn enable more rapid identification of immune responses to populate the databases. Collectively, these resources contribute to improved understanding of immune responses and escape, and evolution of pathogens under immune pressure. The public health implications are vast, including designing vaccines, understanding autoimmune diseases, and defining the correlates of immune protection.
PMCID: PMC1484584  PMID: 16846250
10.  Transmission and accumulation of CTL escape variants drive negative associations between HIV polymorphisms and HLA 
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 amino acid sequence polymorphisms associated with expression of specific human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I alleles suggest sites of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-mediated selection pressure and immune escape. The associations most frequently observed are between expression of an HLA class I molecule and variation from the consensus sequence. However, a substantial number of sites have been identified in which particular HLA class I allele expression is associated with preservation of the consensus sequence. The mechanism behind this is so far unexplained. The current studies, focusing on two examples of “negatively associated” or apparently preserved epitopes, suggest an explanation for this phenomenon: negative associations can arise as a result of positive selection of an escape mutation, which is stable on transmission and therefore accumulates in the population to the point at which it defines the consensus sequence. Such negative associations may only be in evidence transiently, because the statistical power to detect them diminishes as the mutations accumulate. If an escape variant reaches fixation in the population, the epitope will be lost as a potential target to the immune system. These data help to explain how HIV is evolving at a population level. Understanding the direction of HIV evolution has important implications for vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC2213090  PMID: 15781581
11.  Clustering Patterns of Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitopes in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) Proteins Reveal Imprints of Immune Evasion on HIV-1 Global Variation 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(17):8757-8768.
The human cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) response to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has been intensely studied, and hundreds of CTL epitopes have been experimentally defined, published, and compiled in the HIV Molecular Immunology Database. Maps of CTL epitopes on HIV-1 protein sequences reveal that defined epitopes tend to cluster. Here we integrate the global sequence and immunology databases to systematically explore the relationship between HIV-1 amino acid sequences and CTL epitope distributions. CTL responses to five HIV-1 proteins, Gag p17, Gag p24, reverse transcriptase (RT), Env, and Nef, have been particularly well characterized in the literature to date. Through comparing CTL epitope distributions in these five proteins to global protein sequence alignments, we identified distinct characteristics of HIV amino acid sequences that correlate with CTL epitope localization. First, experimentally defined HIV CTL epitopes are concentrated in relatively conserved regions. Second, the highly variable regions that lack epitopes bear cumulative evidence of past immune escape that may make them relatively refractive to CTLs: a paucity of predicted proteasome processing sites and an enrichment for amino acids that do not serve as C-terminal anchor residues. Finally, CTL epitopes are more highly concentrated in alpha-helical regions of proteins. Based on amino acid sequence characteristics, in a blinded fashion, we predicted regions in HIV regulatory and accessory proteins that would be likely to contain CTL epitopes; these predictions were then validated by comparison to new sets of experimentally defined epitopes in HIV-1 Rev, Tat, Vif, and Vpr.
PMCID: PMC136996  PMID: 12163596

Results 1-11 (11)