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1.  HS1,2 Ig Enhancer Alleles Association to AIDS Progression in a Pediatric Cohort Infected with a Monophyletic HIV-Strain 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:637523.
Alteration in the humoral immune response has been observed during HIV infection. The polymorphisms of enhancer HS1,2, member of the 3′ regulatory region of the Ig heavy chain cluster, may play a role in the variation of the humoral response leading to pathological conditions. To assess the role of the HS1,2 polymorphic variants in the progression of AIDS, the HS1,2-A allelic frequencies were investigated in a cohort of HIV infected pediatric subjects from a nosocomial outbreak with a monophyletic strain of HIV. From a total group of 418 HIV infected children in the outbreak cohort, 42 nonprogressors and 31 progressors without bias due to antiretroviral therapy were evaluated. HS1,2 allele ∗1 has been associated with nonprogressors (allelic frequency: 51.19% versus 33.87% in progressors, OR 0.5, and P = 0.0437), while allele ∗2 has been associated with progression (allelic frequency: 48.39% versus 30.95% in nonprogressors, OR 2.1, and P = 0.0393). Further, only subjects carrying allele ∗2 in absence of allele ∗1, either in homozygous condition for allele ∗2 [nonprogressors 2/42 (4.76%), Progressors 7/31 (22.58%), OR 5.8, and P = 0.0315] or in combination with other allelic variants [nonprogressors 7/42 (16.67%), Progressors 13/31 (41.93%), OR 3.61, and P = 0.0321], have been associated with HIV progression to AIDS. In conclusion, while the HS1,2 allele ∗1 has a protective effect on HIV progression when present, allele ∗2 is associated with progression toward AIDS when allele ∗1 is absent.
doi:10.1155/2014/637523
PMCID: PMC4055013  PMID: 25009819
2.  Optimizing Escherichia coli as a protein expression platform to produce Mycobacterium tuberculosis immunogenic proteins 
Background
A number of valuable candidates as tuberculosis vaccine have been reported, some of which have already entered clinical trials. The new vaccines, especially subunit vaccines, need multiple administrations in order to maintain adequate life-long immune memory: this demands for high production levels and degree of purity.
Results
In this study, TB10.4, Ag85B and a TB10.4-Ag85B chimeric protein (here-after referred as full) - immunodominant antigens of Mycobacterium tuberculosis - were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity. The rational design of expression constructs and optimization of fermentation and purification conditions allowed a marked increase in solubility and yield of the recombinant antigens. Indeed, scaling up of the process guaranteed mass production of all these three antigens (2.5-25 mg of pure protein/L cultivation broth). Quality of produced soluble proteins was evaluated both by mass spectrometry to assess the purity of final preparations, and by circular dichroism spectroscopy to ascertain the protein conformation. Immunological tests of the different protein products demonstrated that when TB10.4 was fused to Ag85B, the chimeric protein was more immunoreactive than either of the immunogenic protein alone.
Conclusions
We reached the goal of purifying large quantities of soluble antigens effective in generating immunological response against M. tuberculosis by a robust, controlled, scalable and economically feasible production process.
doi:10.1186/1475-2859-12-115
PMCID: PMC4225511  PMID: 24252280
Recombinant antigens; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Chimeric protein; Protein expression
3.  Immunoinformatic Docking Approach for the Analysis of KIR3DL1/HLA-B Interaction 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:283805.
KIR3DL1 is among the most interesting receptors studied, within the killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) family. Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I Bw4 epitope inhibits strongly Natural Killer (NK) cell's activity through interaction with KIR3DL1 receptor, while Bw6 generally does not. This interaction has been indicated to play an important role in the immune control of different viral infectious diseases. However, the structural interaction between the KIR3DL1 receptor and different HLA-B alleles has been scarcely studied. To understand the complexity of KIR3DL1-HLA-B interaction, HLA-B alleles carrying Bw4/Bw6 epitope and KIR3DL1∗001 allele in presence of different peptides has been evaluated by using a structural immunoinformatic approach. Different energy minimization force fields (ff) have been tested and NOVA ff enables the successful prediction of ligand-receptor interaction. HLA-B alleles carrying Bw4 epitope present the highest capability of interaction with KIR3DL1∗001 compared to the HLA-B alleles presenting Bw6. The presence of the epitope Bw4 determines a conformational change which leads to a stronger interaction between nonpolymorphic arginine at position 79 of HLA-B and KIR3DL1∗001 136–142 loop. The data shed new light on the modalities of KIR3DL1 interaction with HLA-B alleles essential for the modulation of NK immune-mediated response.
doi:10.1155/2013/283805
PMCID: PMC3747338  PMID: 23984333
4.  B-Pred, a structure based B-cell epitopes prediction server 
The ability to predict immunogenic regions in selected proteins by in-silico methods has broad implications, such as allowing a quick selection of potential reagents to be used as diagnostics, vaccines, immunotherapeutics, or research tools in several branches of biological and biotechnological research. However, the prediction of antibody target sites in proteins using computational methodologies has proven to be a highly challenging task, which is likely due to the somewhat elusive nature of B-cell epitopes. This paper proposes a web-based platform for scoring potential immunological reagents based on the structures or 3D models of the proteins of interest. The method scores a protein’s peptides set, which is derived from a sliding window, based on the average solvent exposure, with a filter on the average local model quality for each peptide. The platform was validated on a custom-assembled database of 1336 experimentally determined epitopes from 106 proteins for which a reliable 3D model could be obtained through standard modeling techniques. Despite showing poor sensitivity, this method can achieve a specificity of 0.70 and a positive predictive value of 0.29 by combining these two simple parameters. These values are slightly higher than those obtained with other established sequence-based or structure-based methods that have been evaluated using the same epitopes dataset. This method is implemented in a web server called B-Pred, which is accessible at http://immuno.bio.uniroma2.it/bpred. The server contains a number of original features that allow users to perform personalized reagent searches by manipulating the sliding window’s width and sliding step, changing the exposure and model quality thresholds, and running sequential queries with different parameters. The B-Pred server should assist experimentalists in the rational selection of epitope antigens for a wide range of applications.
doi:10.2147/AABC.S30620
PMCID: PMC3413014  PMID: 22888263
B-cell epitopes; immunoinformatics; bioinformatics; web server; epitope prediction
6.  Accuracy of Immunodiagnostic Tests for Active Tuberculosis Using Single and Combined Results: A Multicenter TBNET-Study 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3417.
Background
The clinical application of IFN-γ release assays (IGRAs) has recently improved the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis infection. In a multicenter study of the Tuberculosis Network European Trialsgroup (TBNET) we aimed to ascertain in routine clinical practice the accuracy of a novel assay using selected peptides encoded in the mycobacterial genomic region of difference (RD) 1 for the diagnosis of active tuberculosis in comparison with tuberculin skin test (TST), QuantiFERON-TB GOLD In-Tube (Cellestis Ltd., Carnegie, Australia) and T-SPOT.TB (Oxfordimmunotec, Abingdon, UK).
Principal Findings
425 individuals from 6 different European centres were prospectively enrolled. We found that sensitivity of the novel test, TST, QuantiFERON-TB GOLD In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB was respectively 73.1%, 85.3%, 78.1%, and 85.2%; specificity was respectively 70.6%, 48.0%, 61.9% and 44.3%; positive likelihood ratios were respectively 2.48, 1.64, 2.05, and 1.53; negative likelihood ratios were respectively 0.38, 0.31, 0.35, 0.33. Sensitivity of TST combined with the novel test, QuantiFERON-TB GOLD In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB increased up to 92.4%, 97.7% and 97.1%, respectively. The likelihood ratios of combined negative results of TST with, respectively, the novel test, QuantiFERON-TB GOLD In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB were 0.19, 0.07 and 0.10.
Conclusions
The assay based on RD1 selected peptides has similar accuracy for active tuberculosis compared with TST and commercial IGRAs. Then, independently of the spectrum of antigens used in the assays to elicit mycobacterial specific immune responses, the novel test, IGRAs, and the TST do not allow an accurate identification of active tuberculosis in clinical practice. However, the combined use of the novel assay or commercial IGRAs with TST may allow exclusion of tuberculosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003417
PMCID: PMC2561073  PMID: 18923709
7.  Selected RD1 Peptides for Active Tuberculosis Diagnosis: Comparison of a Gamma Interferon Whole-Blood Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay and an Enzyme-Linked Immunospot Assay 
We recently set up a gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT), using selected early secreted antigenic target 6 (ESAT-6) peptides, that appears specific for active tuberculosis (A-TB). However, ELISPOT is difficult to automate. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine if the same selected peptides may be used in a technique more suitable for routine work in clinical laboratories, such as whole-blood enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (WBE). For this purpose, 27 patients with A-TB and 41 control patients were enrolled. Our WBE, using the already described selected peptides from ESAT-6 plus three new ones from culture filtrate protein 10, was performed, and data were compared with those obtained by ELISPOT. Using our selected peptides, IFN-γ production, evaluated by both WBE and ELISPOT, was significantly higher in patients with A-TB than in controls (P < 0.0001). Statistical analysis showed a good correlation between the results obtained by WBE and ELISPOT (r = 0.80, P < 0.001). To substantiate our data, we compared our WBE results with those obtained by QuantiFERON-TB Gold, a whole-blood assay based on region of difference 1 (RD1) overlapping peptides approved for TB infection diagnosis. We observed a slightly higher sensitivity with QuantiFERON-TB Gold than with our WBE (89% versus 81%); however, our test provided a better specificity result (90% versus 68%). In conclusion, results obtained by WBE based on selected RD1 peptides significantly correlate with those generated by ELISPOT. Moreover, our assay appears more specific for A-TB diagnosis than QuantiFERON-TB Gold, and thus it may represent a complementary tool for A-TB diagnosis for routine use in clinical laboratories.
doi:10.1128/CDLI.12.11.1311-1316.2005
PMCID: PMC1287767  PMID: 16275946
8.  Identification of HLA-DRPheβ47 as the susceptibility marker of hypersensitivity to beryllium in individuals lacking the berylliosis-associated supratypic marker HLA-DPGluβ69 
Respiratory Research  2005;6(1):94.
Background
Susceptibility to beryllium (Be)-hypersensitivity (BH) has been associated with HLA-DP alleles carrying a glutamate at position 69 of the HLA-DP β-chain (HLA-DPGlu69) and with several HLA-DP, -DQ and -DR alleles and polymorphisms. However, no genetic associations have been found between BH affected subjects not carrying the HLA-DPGlu69 susceptibility marker.
Methods
In this report, we re-evaluated an already described patient populations after 7 years of follow-up including new 29 identified BH subjects. An overall population 36 berylliosis patients and 38 Be-sensitization without lung granulomas and 86 Be-exposed controls was analysed to assess the role of the individual HLA-class II polymorphisms associated with BH-susceptibility in HLA-DPGlu69 negative subjects by univariate and multivariate analysis.
Results
As previously observed in this population the HLA-DPGlu69 markers was present in higher frequency in berylliosis patients (31 out of 36, 86%) than in Be-sensitized (21 out of 38, 55%, p = 0.008 vs berylliosis) and 41 out of 86 (48%, p < 0.0001 vs berylliosis, p = 0.55 vs Be-sensitized) Be-exposed controls.
However, 22 subjects presenting BH did not carry the HLA-DPGlu69 marker. We thus evaluated the contribution of all the HLA-DR, -DP and -DQ polymorphisms in determining BH susceptibility in this subgroup of HLA-Glu69 subjects. In HLA-DPGlu69-negatives a significant association with BH was found for the HLA-DQLeu26, for the HLA-DRB1 locus residues Ser13, Tyr26, His32, Asn37, Phe47 and Arg74 and for the HLA-DRB3 locus clusterized residues Arg11, Tyr26, Asp28, Leu38, Ser60 and Arg74. HLA-DRPhe47 (OR 2.956, p < 0.05) resulting independently associated with BH. Further, Be-stimulated T-cell proliferation in the HLA-DPGlu69-negative subjects (all carrying HLA-DRPhe47) was inhibited by the anti-HLA-DR antibody (range 70–92% inhibition) significantly more than by the anti-HLA-DP antibody (range: 6–29%; p < 0.02 compared to anti-HLA-DR) while it was not affected by the anti-HLA-DQ antibody.
Conclusion
We conclude that HLA-DPGlu69 is the primary marker of Be-hypersensitivity and HLA-DRPhe47 is associated with BH in Glu69-negative subjects, likely playing a role in Be-presentation and sensitization.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-6-94
PMCID: PMC1198259  PMID: 16098233
9.  Identification of Early Secretory Antigen Target-6 Epitopes for the Immunodiagnosis of Active Tuberculosis 
Molecular Medicine  2003;9(3-4):105-111.
The early secretory antigenic target (ESAT)-6 purified protein and peptides from Mycobacterium tuberculosis were evaluated as antigens for the immunodiagnosis of tuberculosis (TB). Because the control of TB requires improved diagnostic procedures, efforts have increased to identify Mycobacterium tuberculosis–specific epitopes for the immunodiagnosis of active TB and to discriminate between active and latent states of infection. Two multiepitopic peptides from ESAT-6 protein were selected by computational analysis. Patients with active TB (7 HIV+ and 20 HIV−) and control patients (17 HIV+ and 28 HIV−) were enrolled. Enzyme-linked immunospot assay analysis for interferon-γ expression by peripheral blood mononuclear cells was quantified after stimulation with selected ESAT-6 peptides, purified protein derivative, or the intact ESAT-6 protein. During active TB, 20 of 27 patients responded in vitro to ESAT-6 peptides and 23 of 27 patients to purified protein derivative. None of the controls without active TB, including individuals with latent TB infection, recognized ESAT-6 peptides. By contrast, latently infected individuals did respond in vitro to both intact ESAT-6 protein and purified protein derivative. Thus, high T-cell response frequencies to ESAT-6 peptides are present only during active TB and can be used to discriminate between active and latent forms of infection.
PMCID: PMC1430726  PMID: 12865946
10.  Computer-based design of an HLA-haplotype and HIV-clade independent cytotoxic T-lymphocyte assay for monitoring HIV-specific immunity. 
Molecular Medicine  2002;8(12):798-807.
BACKGROUND: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)- specific CD8-positive cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) play a key role in controlling HIV infection. Monitoring CTL response could be clinically relevant during structured therapy interruption (STI), HIV exposure, and vaccine trials. However, HLA patients' restriction and HIV variability limited the development of a CTL assay with broad specificity. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We designed an HLA-class I/HIV-1 clade independent assay for assessing HIV- specific CTL by using a computer-assisted selection ofthe CTL epitopes. Twenty-eight 15-mers were selected by peptide-binding motifs analysis using different databases (HIV-Immunology Database, SYFPEITHI, BIMAS). Altogether they putatively bind to more than 90% of HLA haplotypes in different populations, with an overall HIV-1 variability below 9%. The peptide pool was used as an antigen in an intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) assay for quantifying HIV-specific CTL response. RESULTS: The test can be performed using both fresh and cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), whereas GAG protein as antigen works only on fresh PBMC. A significantly higher CTL response with respect to HIV-negative controls was detected in all HIV-1 infected subjects of two groups of patients with different ethnicities (Caucasians and Africans) and coming from areas with different HIV-1 clade prevalences (clade B and A/G, respectively). In Caucasian patients, after month of STI, the number of HIV-1 specific CTL (2,896 +/- 2,780 IFN-gamma specific CD8 cells/ml) was significantly higher than that found at enrolment (2,125 +/- 4,426 IFN-gamma specific CD8 cells/ml, p< 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that this CTL assay is broadly specific and could represent a useful clinical tool for HIV immunodiagnostic independent of HLA-haplotype and HIV-clade variabilities.
PMCID: PMC2039964  PMID: 12606814

Results 1-10 (10)