The two-faced T cell epitope: examining the host-microbe interface with JanusMatrix.
Advances in the field of T cell immunology have contributed to the understanding that cross-reactivity is an intrinsic characteristic of the T cell receptor (TCR), and that each TCR can potentially interact with many different T cell epitopes. To better define the potential for TCR cross-reactivity between epitopes derived from the human genome, the human microbiome, and human pathogens, we developed a new immunoinformatics tool, JanusMatrix, that represents an extension of the validated T cell epitope mapping tool, EpiMatrix. Initial explorations, summarized in this synopsis, have uncovered what appear to be important differences in the TCR cross-reactivity of selected regulatory and effector T cell epitopes with other epitopes in the human genome, human microbiome, and selected human pathogens. In addition to exploring the T cell epitope relationships between human self, commensal and pathogen, JanusMatrix may also be useful to explore some aspects of heterologous immunity and to examine T cell epitope relatedness between pathogens to which humans are exposed (Dengue serotypes, or HCV and Influenza, for example). In Hand-Foot-Mouth disease (HFMD) for example, extensive enterovirus and human microbiome cross-reactivity (and limited cross-reactivity with the human genome) seemingly predicts immunodominance. In contrast, more extensive cross-reactivity with proteins contained in the human genome as compared to the human microbiome was observed for selected Treg epitopes. While it may be impossible to predict all immune response influences, the availability of sequence data from the human genome, the human microbiome, and an array of human pathogens and vaccines has made computationally-driven exploration of the effects of T cell epitope cross-reactivity now possible. This is the first description of JanusMatrix, an algorithm that assesses TCR cross-reactivity that may contribute to a means of predicting the phenotype of T cells responding to selected T cell epitopes. Whether used for explorations of T cell phenotype or for evaluating cross-conservation between related viral strains at the TCR face of viral epitopes, further JanusMatrix studies may contribute to developing safer, more effective vaccines.