It is currently not possible to predict which epitopes will be recognized by T cells in different individuals. This is a barrier to the thorough analysis and understanding of T-cell responses after vaccination or infection. Here, by combining mass cytometry with combinatorial peptide–MHC tetramer staining, we have developed a method allowing the rapid and simultaneous identification and characterization of T cells specific for many epitopes. We use this to screen up to 109 different peptide–MHC tetramers in a single human blood sample, while still retaining at least 23 labels to analyze other markers of T-cell phenotype and function. Among 77 candidate rotavirus epitopes, we identified six T-cell epitopes restricted to human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*0201 in the blood of healthy individuals. T cells specific for epitopes in the rotavirus VP3 protein displayed a distinct phenotype and were present at high frequencies in intestinal epithelium. This approach should be useful for the comprehensive analysis of T-cell responses to infectious diseases or vaccines.
γδ T cells contribute uniquely to host immune defense. However, how they function remains an enigma. Although it is unclear what most γδ T cells recognize, common dogma asserts that they recognize self-antigens. While they are the major initial Interleukin-17 (IL-17) producers in infections, it is unclear what is required to trigger these cells to act. Here, we report that a noted B cell antigen, the algae protein-phycoerythrin (PE) is an antigen for murine and human γδ T cells. PE also stained specific bovine γδ T cells. Employing this specificity, we demonstrated that antigen recognition, but not extensive clonal expansion, was required to activate naïve γδ T cells to make IL-17. In this activated state, γδ T cells gained the ability to respond to cytokine signals that perpetuated the IL-17 production. These results underscore the adaptability of lymphocyte antigen receptors and suggest a previously unrecognized antigen-driven rapid response in protective immunity prior to the maturation of classical adaptive immunity.
Thymic positive selection is based on the interactions of T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) with self peptide–major histocompatibility complex (MHC) ligands, but the identity of selecting peptides for MHC class II–restricted TCRs and the functional consequences of this peptide specificity are not clear. Here we identify several endogenous self peptides that positively selected the MHC class II–restricted 5C.C7 TCR. The most potent of these also enhanced mature T cell activation, which supports the hypothesis that one function of positive selection is to produce T cells that can use particular self peptide–MHC complexes for activation and/or homeostasis. We also show that inhibiting the microRNA miR-181a resulted in maturation of T cells that overtly reacted toward these erstwhile positively selecting peptides. Therefore, miR-181a helps to guarantee the clonal deletion of particular moderate-affinity clones by modulating the TCR signaling threshold of thymocytes.
Immature double-positive (CD4+CD8+) thymocytes respond to negatively selecting peptide-MHC ligands by forming an immune synapse that sustains contact with the antigen-presenting cell (APC). Using fluorescently labeled peptides, we showed that as few as two agonist ligands could promote APC contact and subsequent apoptosis in reactive thymocytes. Furthermore, we showed that productive signaling for positive selection, as gauged by nuclear translocation of a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled NFATc construct, did not involve formation of a synapse between thymocytes and selecting epithelial cells in reaggregate thymus cultures. Antibody blockade of endogenous positively selecting ligands prevented NFAT nuclear accumulation in such cultures and reversed NFAT accumulation in previously stimulated thymocytes. Together, these data suggest a “gauntlet” model in which thymocytes mature by continually acquiring and reacquiring positively selecting signals without sustained contact with epithelial cells, thereby allowing them to sample many cell surfaces for potentially negatively selecting ligands.
After a half-century of mouse-dominated research, human immunology is making a comeback. Informed by mouse studies and powered by new techniques, human immune research is both advancing disease treatment and providing new insights into basic biology.
This chapter describes a method to generate plasma membrane sheets that are large enough to visualize the membrane architecture and perform quantitative analyses of protein distributions. This procedure places the sheets on electron microscopy grids, parallel to the imaging plane of the microscope, where they can be characterized by transmission electron microscopy. The basic principle of the technique is that cells are broken open (“ripped”) through mechanical forces applied by the separation of two opposing surfaces sandwiching the cell, with one of the surfaces coated onto an EM grid. The exposed inner membrane surfaces can then be visualized with electron dense stains and specific proteins can be detected with gold conjugated probes.
Plasma membrane; Transmission electron microscopy; Protein distribution
The physiological basis and mechanistic requirement for the high immunoreceptor tyrosine activation motifs (ITAM) multiplicity of the T cell receptor (TCR)-CD3 complex remains obscure. Here we show that while low TCR-CD3 ITAM multiplicity is sufficient to engage canonical TCR-induced signaling events that lead to cytokine secretion, high TCR-CD3 ITAM multiplicity is required for TCR-driven proliferation. This is dependent on compact immunological synapse formation, interaction of the adaptor Vav1 with phosphorylated CD3 ITAMs to mediate Notch1 recruitment and activation and ultimately c-Myc-induced proliferation. Analogous mechanistic events are also required to drive proliferation in response to weak peptide agonists. Thus, the TCR-driven pathways that initiate cytokine secretion and proliferation are separable and co-ordinated by the multiplicity of phosphorylated TCR-CD3 ITAMs.
T cells specific for the cytochrome c Ag are widely used to investigate many aspects of TCR specificity and interactions with peptide-MHC, but structural information has long been elusive. In this study, we present structures for the well-studied 2B4 TCR, as well as a naturally occurring variant of the 5c.c7 TCR, 226, which is cross-reactive with more than half of possible substitutions at all three TCR-sensitive residues on the peptide Ag. These structures alone and in complex with peptide-MHC ligands allow us to reassess many prior mutagenesis results. In addition, the structure of 226 bound to one peptide variant, p5E, shows major changes in the CDR3 contacts compared with wild-type, yet the TCR V-region contacts with MHC are conserved. These and other data illustrate the ability of TCRs to accommodate large variations in CDR3 structure and peptide contacts within the constraints of highly conserved TCR–MHC interactions.
Cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes directly kill infected or aberrant cells and secrete proinflammatory cytokines. By using metal-labeled probes and mass spectrometric analysis (cytometry by time-of-flight, or CyTOF) of human CD8+ T cells, we analyzed the expression of many more proteins than previously possible with fluorescent labels, including surface markers, cytokines, and antigen specificity with modified peptide-MHC tetramers. With 3-dimensional principal component analysis (3D-PCA) to display phenotypic diversity, we observed a relatively uniform pattern of variation in all subjects tested, highlighting the interrelatedness of previously described subsets and the continuous nature of CD8+ T cell differentiation. These data also showed much greater complexity in the CD8+ T cell compartment than previously appreciated, including a nearly combinatorial pattern of cytokine expression, with distinct niches occupied by virus-specific cells. This large degree of functional diversity even between cells with the same specificity gives CD8+ T cells a remarkable degree of flexibility in responding to pathogens.
While T cell memory is generally thought to require direct antigen exposure, we find an abundance of memory phenotype cells (20–90%, averaging over 50%) of CD4+ T cells specific for viral antigens in adults that have never been infected. These cells express the appropriate memory markers and genes, rapidly produce cytokines, and have clonally expanded. This contrasts with newborns where the same T cell receptor (TCR) specificities are almost entirely naïve, which may explain the vulnerability of young children to infections. One mechanism for this phenomenon is TCR cross-reactivity to environmental antigens and in support of this we find extensive cross-recognition by HIV-1 and influenza-reactive T lymphocytes to other microbial peptides and the expansion of one of these following influenza vaccination. Thus the presence of these memory phenotype T cells has significant implications for immunity to novel pathogens, child and adult health, and the influence of pathogen-rich versus hygienic environments.
The human antibody repertoire is one of the most important defenses against infectious disease, and the development of vaccines has enabled the conferral of targeted protection to specific pathogens. However, there are many challenges to measuring and analyzing the immunoglobulin sequence repertoire, such as the fact that each B cell contains a distinct antibody sequence encoded in its genome, that the antibody repertoire is not constant but changes over time, and the high similarity between antibody sequences. We have addressed this challenge by using high-throughput long read sequencing to perform immunogenomic characterization of expressed human antibody repertoires in the context of influenza vaccination. Informatic analysis of 5 million antibody heavy chain sequences from healthy individuals allowed us to perform global characterizations of isotype distributions, determine the lineage structure of the repertoire and measure age and antigen related mutational activity. Our analysis of the clonal structure and mutational distribution of individuals’ repertoires shows that elderly subjects have a decreased number of lineages but an increased pre-vaccination mutation load in their repertoire and that some of these subjects have an oligoclonal character to their repertoire in which the diversity of the lineages is greatly reduced relative to younger subjects. We have thus shown that global analysis of the immune system’s clonal structure provides direct insight into the effects of vaccination and provides a detailed molecular portrait of age-related effects.
Labelling antigen-specific T cells with peptide–MHC multimers has provided an invaluable way to monitor T cell-mediated immune responses. A number of recent developments in this technology have made these multimers much easier to make and use in large numbers. Furthermore, enrichment techniques have provided a greatly increased sensitivity that allows the analysis of the naive T cell repertoire directly. Thus, we can expect a flood of new information to emerge in the coming years.
We describe cell type–specific significance analysis of microarrays (cssam) for analyzing differential gene expression for each cell type in a biological sample from microarray data and relative cell-type frequencies. first, we validated cssam with predesigned mixtures and then applied it to whole-blood gene expression datasets from stable post-transplant kidney transplant recipients and those experiencing acute transplant rejection, which revealed hundreds of differentially expressed genes that were otherwise undetectable.
Existing methods to measure influenza vaccine immunogenicity prohibit detailed analysis of epitope determinants recognized by immunoglobulins. The development of highly multiplex proteomics platforms capable of capturing a high level of antibody binding information will enable researchers and clinicians to generate rapid and meaningful readouts of influenza-specific antibody reactivity.
We developed influenza hemagglutinin (HA) whole-protein and peptide microarrays and validated that the arrays allow detection of specific antibody reactivity across a broad dynamic range using commercially available antibodies targeted to linear and conformational HA epitopes. We derived serum from blood draws taken from 76 young and elderly subjects immediately before and 28±7 days post-vaccination with the 2008/2009 trivalent influenza vaccine and determined the antibody reactivity of these sera to influenza array antigens.
Using linear regression and correcting for multiple hypothesis testing by the Benjamini and Hochberg method of permutations over 1000 resamplings, we identified antibody reactivity to influenza whole-protein and peptide array features that correlated significantly with age, H1N1, and B-strain post-vaccine titer as assessed through a standard microneutralization assay (p<0.05, q <0.2). Notably, we identified several peptide epitopes that were inversely correlated with regard to age and seasonal H1N1 and B-strain neutralization titer (p<0.05, q <0.2), implicating reactivity to these epitopes in age-related defects in response to H1N1 influenza. We also employed multivariate linear regression with cross-validation to build models based on age and pre-vaccine peptide reactivity that predicted vaccine-induced neutralization of seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 influenza strains with a high level of accuracy (84.7% and 74.0%, respectively).
Our methods provide powerful tools for rapid and accurate measurement of broad antibody-based immune responses to influenza, and may be useful in measuring response to other vaccines and infectious agents.
A systems analysis of immune biomarkers in 89 young and older adults revealed age-dependent and age-independent features, including markers of apoptosis that correlated with antibody responses to a seasonal influenza vaccine.
Influenza hemagglutinin peptide arrays reveal age-associated effects that correlate with both pre-existing and vaccine-induced antibody titers.Age-dependent and age-independent baseline immune parameters correlate with and substantially predict the serological response to a seasonal influenza vaccine.Soluble FasL and gene modules associated with apoptosis are predictors of the serological response to an influenza vaccine, which was abrogated in Fas-deficient mice.
Despite the importance of the immune system in many diseases, there are currently no objective benchmarks of immunological health. In an effort to identifying such markers, we used influenza vaccination in 30 young (20–30 years) and 59 older subjects (60 to >89 years) as models for strong and weak immune responses, respectively, and assayed their serological responses to influenza strains as well as a wide variety of other parameters, including gene expression, antibodies to hemagglutinin peptides, serum cytokines, cell subset phenotypes and in vitro cytokine stimulation. Using machine learning, we identified nine variables that predict the antibody response with 84% accuracy. Two of these variables are involved in apoptosis, which positively associated with the response to vaccination and was confirmed to be a contributor to vaccine responsiveness in mice. The identification of these biomarkers provides new insights into what immune features may be most important for immune health.
aging; apoptosis; influenza; systems immunology; vaccinology
Systems-level approaches are increasingly common in both murine and human translational studies. These approaches employ multiple high information content assays. As a result, there is a need for tools to integrate heterogeneous types of laboratory and clinical/demographic data, and to allow the exploration of that data by aggregating and/or segregating results based on particular variables (e.g., mean cytokine levels by age and gender).
Here we describe the application of standard data warehousing tools to create a novel environment for user-driven upload, integration, and exploration of heterogeneous data. The system presented here currently supports flow cytometry and immunoassays performed in the Stanford Human Immune Monitoring Center, but could be applied more generally.
Users upload assay results contained in platform-specific spreadsheets of a defined format, and clinical and demographic data in spreadsheets of flexible format. Users then map sample IDs to connect the assay results with the metadata. An OLAP (on-line analytical processing) data exploration interface allows filtering and display of various dimensions (e.g., Luminex analytes in rows, treatment group in columns, filtered on a particular study). Statistics such as mean, median, and N can be displayed. The views can be expanded or contracted to aggregate or segregate data at various levels. Individual-level data is accessible with a single click. The result is a user-driven system that permits data integration and exploration in a variety of settings. We show how the system can be used to find gender-specific differences in serum cytokine levels, and compare them across experiments and assay types.
We have used the tools and techniques of data warehousing, including open-source business intelligence software, to support investigator-driven data integration and mining of diverse immunological data.
Systems immunology; Data integration; Data warehousing; OLAP
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are an attractive source for tissue regeneration and repair therapies because they can be differentiated into virtually any cell type in the adult body. However, for this approach to succeed, the transplanted ESCs must survive long enough to generate a therapeutic benefit. A major obstacle facing the engraftment of ESCs is transplant rejection by the immune system. Here we show that blocking leukocyte costimulatory molecules permits ESC engraftment. We demonstrate the success of this immunosuppressive therapy for mouse ESCs (mESC), human ESCs (hESC), mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (miPSC), human iPSCs (hiPSC), and more differentiated ESC/iPSC-derivatives. Additionally, we provide evidence describing the mechanism by which inhibition of costimulatory molecules suppresses T-cell activation. This report describes a short-term immunosuppressive approach capable of inducing engraftment of transplanted ESCs and iPSCs, providing a significant improvement in our mechanistic understanding of the critical role costimulatory molecules play in leukocyte activation.
ESC; iPSC; stem cell; transplantation; immunogenicity
Conventional measurement of antibody responses to vaccines largely relies on serum antibodies, which are primarily produced by bone marrow plasma cells and may not represent the entire vaccine-induced B cell repertoire, including important functional components such as those targeted to mucosal sites. After immunization or infection, activated B cells differentiate into plasmablasts in local lymphoid organs, then traffic through circulation to the target sites where they further develop into plasma cells. On day 7 after influenza vaccination, a burst of plasmablasts, highly enriched for vaccine-specific antibody secreting cells, appears in the peripheral blood. This provides a unique window to the overall B cell response to the vaccine, without interference of pre-existing cross-reactive serum antibody. In this study we isolated B cells from volunteers on day 7 after immunization with the inactivated influenza vaccine and cultured them ex vivo to collect plasmablast-derived polyclonal antibodies (PPAb). The PPAb contained secreted IgG and IgA, which was approximately 0.2 ng per antibody secreting cell. Influenza-specific IgG and IgA binding activity was detected in PPAb at dilutions up to 105 by ELISA. The ratio of the titers of influenza-specific IgA to IgG by ELISA was 4-fold higher in PPAb than in day 28 post-vaccination sera, suggesting that vaccine-induced IgA is enriched in PPAb compared to sera. Functional activity was also detected in PPAb as determined by microneutralization and hemagglutination inhibition assays. In addition to bulk B cell cultures, we also cultured plasmablast subsets sorted by cell surface markers to generate PPAb. These results suggest that PPAb better reflects the mucosal IgA response than serum samples. Since PPAb are exclusively produced by recently activated B cells, it allows assessing vaccine-induced antibody response without interference from pre-existing cross-reactive serum antibodies and permits an assessment of antibody avidity based on antigen specific binding and antibody quantity. Therefore this assay is particularly useful for studying vaccine/infection-induced antibodies against antigens that might have previously circulated, such as antibody responses to rotavirus, dengue or influenza viruses in which cross-reactive antibodies against different virus serotypes/subtypes play a critical role in immunity and/or pathogenesis.
Influenza virus; vaccines; antibodies; plasmablasts
The organization and dynamics of receptors and other molecules in the plasma membrane are not well understood. Here we analyzed the spatio-temporal dynamics of T cell antigen receptor (TCR) complexes and linker for activation of T cells (Lat), a key adaptor molecule in the TCR signaling pathway, in T cell membranes using high-speed photoactivated localization microscopy, dual-color fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy. In quiescent T cells, both molecules existed in separate membrane domains (protein islands), and these domains concatenated after T cell activation. These concatemers were identical to signaling microclusters, a prominent hallmark of T cell activation. This separation versus physical juxtapositioning of receptor domains and domains containing downstream signaling molecules in quiescent versus activated T cells may be a general feature of plasma membrane–associated signal transduction.
The recognition of foreign antigens by T lymphocytes is essential to most adaptive immune responses. It is driven by specific T-cell antigen receptors (TCRs) binding to antigenic peptide–major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecules on other cells1. If productive, these interactions promote the formation of an immunological synapse2,3. Here we show that synaptic TCR–pMHC binding dynamics differ significantly from TCR–pMHC binding in solution. We used single-molecule microscopy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between fluorescently tagged TCRs and their cognate pMHC ligands to measure the kinetics of TCR–pMHC binding in situ. When compared with solution measurements, the dissociation of this complex was increased significantly (4–12-fold). Disruption of actin polymers reversed this effect, indicating that cytoskeletal dynamics destabilize this interaction directly or indirectly. Nevertheless, TCR affinity for pMHC was significantly elevated as the result of a large (about 100-fold) increase in the association rate, a likely consequence of complementary molecular orientation and clustering. In helper T cells, the CD4 molecule has been proposed to bind cooperatively with the TCR to the same pMHC complex. However, CD4 blockade had no effect on the synaptic TCR affinity, nor did it destabilize TCR–pMHC complexes, indicating that the TCR binds pMHC independently of CD4.
“How does T cell receptor signaling begin?” Answering this question requires an understanding of how the parts of the molecular machinery that mediates this process fit and work together. Ultimately this molecular architecture must (i) trigger the relay of information from the TCR-pMHC interface to the signaling substrates of the CD3 molecules and (ii) bring the kinases that modify these substrates in close proximity to interact, initiate, and sustain signaling. In this contribution we will discuss advances of the last decade that have increased our understanding of the complex machinery and interactions that underlie this type of signaling.
TCR; CD3; complex; co-receptor; multi-molecular machinery; triggering
During seasonal influenza epidemics, disease burden is shouldered predominantly by the very young and the elderly. Elderly individuals are particularly affected, in part because vaccine efficacy wanes with age. This has been linked to a reduced ability to induce a robust serum antibody response. Here, we show that this is due to reduced quantities of vaccine-specific antibodies, rather than a lack of antibody avidity or affinity. We measured levels of vaccine-specific plasmablasts by ELISPOT 1 week after immunization of young and elderly adults with inactivated seasonal influenza vaccine. Plasmablast-derived polyclonal antibodies (PPAbs) were generated from bulk-cultured B cells, while recombinant monoclonal antibodies (re-mAbs) were produced from single plasmablasts. The frequency of vaccine-specific plasmablasts and the concentration of PPAbs were lower in the elderly than in young adults, whereas the yields of secreted IgG per plasmablast were not different. Differences were not detected in the overall vaccine-specific avidity or affinity of PPAbs and re-mAbs between the 2 age groups. In contrast, reactivity of the antibodies induced by the inactivated seasonal influenza vaccine toward the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus, which was not present in the vaccine, was higher in the elderly than in the young. These results indicate that the inferior antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly is primarily due to reduced quantities of vaccine-specific antibodies. They also suggest that exposure history affects the cross-reactivity of vaccination-induced antibodies.