MHC class I molecules (HLA-I in humans) present peptides derived from endogenous proteins to CTLs. Whereas the peptide-binding specificities of HLA-A and -B molecules have been studied extensively, little is known about HLA-C specificities. Combining a positional scanning combinatorial peptide library approach with a peptide-HLA-I dissociation assay, in this study we present a general strategy to determine the peptide-binding specificity of any MHC class I molecule. We applied this novel strategy to 17 of the most common HLA-C molecules, and for 16 of these we successfully generated matrices representing their peptide-binding motifs. The motifs prominently shared a conserved C-terminal primary anchor with hydrophobic amino acid residues, as well as one or more diverse primary and auxiliary anchors at P1, P2, P3, and/or P7. Matrices were used to generate a large panel of HLA-C-specific peptide-binding data and update our pan-specific NetMHCpan predictor, whose predictive performance was considerably improved with respect to peptide binding to HLA-C. The updated predictor was used to assess the specificities of HLA-C molecules, which were found to cover a more limited sequence space than HLA-A and -B molecules. Assessing the functional significance of these new tools, HLA-C*07:01 transgenic mice were immunized with stable HLA-C*07:01 binders; six of six tested stable peptide binders were immunogenic. Finally, we generated HLA-C tetramers and labeled human CD8(+) T cells and NK cells. These new resources should support future research on the biology of HLA-C molecules. The data are deposited at the Immune Epitope Database, and the updated NetMHCpan predictor is available at the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis and the Immune Epitope Database.
The binding of peptides to classical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I proteins is the single most selective step in antigen presentation. However, the peptide-binding specificity of cattle MHC (bovine leucocyte antigen, BoLA) class I (BoLA-I) molecules remains poorly characterized. Here, we demonstrate how a combination of high-throughput assays using positional scanning combinatorial peptide libraries, peptide dissociation, and peptide-binding affinity binding measurements can be combined with bioinformatics to effectively characterize the functionality of BoLA-I molecules. Using this strategy, we characterized eight BoLA-I molecules, and found the peptide specificity to resemble that of human MHC-I molecules with primary anchors most often at P2 and P9, and occasional auxiliary P1/P3/P5/P6 anchors. We analyzed nine reported CTL epitopes from Theileria parva, and in eight cases, stable and high affinity binding was confirmed. A set of peptides were tested for binding affinity to the eight BoLA proteins and used to refine the predictors of peptide-MHC binding NetMHC and NetMHCpan. The inclusion of BoLA-specific peptide-binding data led to a significant improvement in prediction accuracy for reported T. parva CTL epitopes. For reported CTL epitopes with weak or no predicted binding, these refined prediction methods suggested presence of nested minimal epitopes with high-predicted binding affinity. The enhanced affinity of the alternative peptides was in all cases confirmed experimentally. This study demonstrates how biochemical high-throughput assays combined with immunoinformatics can be used to characterize the peptide-binding motifs of BoLA-I molecules, boosting performance of MHC peptide-binding prediction methods, and empowering rational epitope discovery in cattle.
Although CD8+ T cells play a critical role in the control of HIV-1 infection,their antiviral efficacy can be limited by antigenic variation and immune exhaustion.The latter phenomenon is characterized by the upregulation of multiple inhibitory receptors, such as programmed death-1 (PD-1), CD244 and lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), which modulate the functional capabilities of CD8+ T cells.
It is important to accurately determine the performance of peptide:MHC binding predictions, as this enables users to compare and choose between different prediction methods and provides estimates of the expected error rate. Two common approaches to determine prediction performance are cross-validation, in which all available data are iteratively split into training and testing data, and the use of blind sets generated separately from the data used to construct the predictive method. In the present study, we have compared cross-validated prediction performances generated on our last benchmark dataset from 2009 with prediction performances generated on data subsequently added to the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) which served as a blind set.
Peptide-major histocompatibility complex (p-MHC) class I tetramer complexes have facilitated the early detection and functional characterisation of epitope specific CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Here, we report on the generation of seven recombinant bovine leukocyte antigens (BoLA) and recombinant bovine ?2-microglobulin from which p-MHC class I tetramers can be derived in ~48 h. We validated a set of p-MHC class I tetramers against a panel of CTL lines specific to seven epitopes on five different antigens of Theileria parva, a protozoan pathogen causing the lethal bovine disease East Coast fever. One of the p-MHC class I tetramers was tested in ex vivo assays and we detected T. parva specific CTL in peripheral blood of cattle at day 15-17 post-immunization with a live parasite vaccine. The algorithm NetMHCpan predicted alternative epitope sequences for some of the T. parva CTL epitopes. Using an ELISA assay to measure peptide-BoLA monomer formation and p-MHC class I tetramers of new specificity, we demonstrate that a predicted alternative epitope Tp229-37 rather than the previously reported Tp227-37 epitope is the correct Tp2 epitope presented by BoLA-6*04101. We also verified the prediction by NetMHCpan that the Tp587-95 epitope reported as BoLA-T5 restricted can also be presented by BoLA-1*02301, a molecule similar in sequence to BoLA-T5. In addition, Tp587-95 specific bovine CTL were simultaneously stained by Tp5-BoLA-1*02301 and Tp5-BoLA-T5 tetramers suggesting that one T cell receptor can bind to two different BoLA MHC class I molecules presenting the Tp587-95 epitope and that these BoLA molecules fall into a single functional supertype.
We have previously shown that human seminal plasma contains immunomodulatory soluble HLA-G (sHLA-G). We investigated whether sHLA-G levels in seminal plasma are associated with a specific 14 base pair (bp) insertion/deletion (ins/del) polymorphism in the 3'-untranslated region of the HLA-G gene and/or with the outcome of assisted reproduction treatments (ART) in couples attending a fertility clinic.
Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecules play an essential role in the cellular immune response, presenting peptides to cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) allowing the immune system to scrutinize ongoing intracellular production of proteins. In the early 1990s, immunogenicity and stability of the peptide-MHC-I (pMHC-I) complex were shown to be correlated. At that time, measuring stability was cumbersome and time consuming and only small data sets were analysed. Here, we investigate this fairly unexplored area on a large scale compared with earlier studies. A recent small-scale study demonstrated that pMHC-I complex stability was a better correlate of CTL immunogenicity than peptide-MHC-I affinity. We here extended this study and analysed a total of 5509 distinct peptide stability measurements covering 10 different HLA class I molecules. Artificial neural networks were used to construct stability predictors capable of predicting the half-life of the pMHC-I complex. These predictors were shown to predict T-cell epitopes and MHC ligands from SYFPEITHI and IEDB to form significantly more stable MHC-I complexes compared with affinity-matched non-epitopes. Combining the stability predictions with a state-of-the-art affinity predictions NetMHCcons significantly improved the performance for identification of T-cell epitopes and ligands. For the HLA alleles included in the study, we could identify distinct sub-motifs that differentiate between stable and unstable peptide binders and demonstrate that anchor positions in the N-terminal of the binding motif (primarily P2 and P3) play a critical role for the formation of stable pMHC-I complexes. A webserver implementing the method is available at www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetMHCstab.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an important human pathogen. It is a leading cause of congenital infection and a leading infectious threat to recipients of solid organ transplants as well as of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplants. Moreover, it has recently been suggested that HCMV may promote tumor development. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses are important for long-term control of the virus, and adoptive transfer of HCMV-specific T cells has led to protection from reactivation and HCMV disease. Identification of HCMV-specific T cell epitopes has primarily focused on CD8+ T cell responses against the pp65 phosphoprotein. In this study, we have focused on CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses against the immediate early 1 and 2 proteins (IE1 and IE2). Using overlapping peptides spanning the entire IE1 and IE2 sequences, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 16 healthy, HLA-typed, donors were screened by ex vivo IFN-? ELISpot and in vitro intracellular cytokine secretion assays. The specificities of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses were identified and validated by HLA class II and I tetramers, respectively. Eighty-one CD4+ and 44 CD8+ T cell responses were identified representing at least seven different CD4 epitopes and 14 CD8 epitopes restricted by seven and 11 different HLA class II and I molecules, respectively, in total covering 91 and 98% of the Caucasian population, respectively. Presented in the context of several different HLA class II molecules, two epitope areas in IE1 and IE2 were recognized in about half of the analyzed donors. These data may be used to design a versatile anti-HCMV vaccine and/or immunotherapy strategy.
Abstract Genetic polymorphisms within the MHC encoding region have the strongest impact on HIV disease progression of any in the human genome and provide important clues to the mechanisms of HIV immune control. Few analyses have been undertaken of HLA alleles associated with rapid disease progression. HLA-B*07:02 is an HLA class I molecule that is prevalent in most populations worldwide and that has previously been consistently linked to accelerated disease progression in B-clade infection. This study investigates the observation that HLA-B*07:02 is not associated with a high viral setpoint in C-clade infection. We examine the hypothesis that this clade-specific difference in association with disease outcome may be related to distinct targeting of CD8(+) T cell epitopes. We observed that C-clade-infected individuals with HLA-B*07:02 target a broader range of Gag epitopes, and to higher magnitudes, than do individuals infected with B-clade infection. In particular, a novel p17-Gag (Gag22-30, RPGGKKHYM) epitope is targeted in >50% of HLA-B*07:02-positive C-clade-infected individuals but clade-specific differences in this epitope result in nonimmunogenicity in B-clade infection. Only the C-clade p24-Gag "GL9" (Gag355-363, GPSHKARVL) epitope-specific CD8(+) T cell response out of 16 studied was associated with a low viral setpoint. Although this epitope was also targeted in B-clade infection, the escape mutant S357S is present at higher frequency in B-clade infection than in C-clade infection (70% versus 43% in HLA-B*07:02-negative subjects). These data support earlier studies suggesting that increased breadth of the Gag-specific CD8(+) T cell response may contribute to improved HIV immune control irrespective of the particular HLA molecules expressed.
It is generally accepted that CD8 T cells play a major role in tumor control, yet vaccination aimed at eliciting potent CD8 T cell responses are rarely efficient in clinical trials. To try and understand why this is so, we have generated potent adenoviral vectors encoding the endogenous tumor Ags (TA) tyrosinase-related protein-2 (TRP-2) and glycoprotein 100 (GP100) tethered to the invariant chain (Ii). Using these vectors, we sought to characterize the self-TA-specific CD8 T cell response and compare it to that induced against non-self-Ags expressed from a similar vector platform. Prophylactic vaccination with adenoviral vectors expressing either TRP-2 (Ad-Ii-TRP-2) or GP100 (Ad-Ii-GP100) had little or no effect on the growth of s.c. B16 melanomas, and only Ad-Ii-TRP-2 was able to induce a marginal reduction of B16 lung metastasis. In contrast, vaccination with a similar vector construct expressing a foreign (viral) TA induced efficient tumor control. Analyzing the self-TA-specific CD8 T cells, we observed that these could be activated to produce IFN-? and TNF-?. In addition, surface expression of phenotypic markers and inhibitory receptors, as well as in vivo cytotoxicity and degranulation capacity matched that of non-self-Ag-specific CD8 T cells. However, the CD8 T cells specific for self-TAs had a lower functional avidity, and this impacted on their in vivo performance. On the basis of these results and a low expression of the targeted TA epitopes on the tumor cells, we suggest that low avidity of the self-TA-specific CD8 T cells may represent a major obstacle for efficient immunotherapy of cancer.
Despite an abundance of peptides inside a cell, only a small fraction is ultimately presented by HLA-I on the cell surface. The presented peptides have HLA-I allomorph-specific motifs and are restricted in length. So far, detailed length studies have been limited to few allomorphs. Peptide-HLA-I (pHLA-I) complexes of different allomorphs are qualitatively and quantitatively influenced by tapasin to different degrees, but again, its effect has only been investigated for a small number of HLA-I allomorphs. Although both peptide length and tapasin dependence are known to be important for HLA-I peptide presentation, the relationship between them has never been studied. In this study, we used random peptide libraries from 7- to 13-mers and studied binding in the presence and absence of a recombinant truncated form of tapasin. The data show that HLA-I allomorphs are differentially affected by tapasin, different lengths of peptides generated different amounts of pHLA-I complexes, and HLA-A allomorphs are generally less restricted than HLA-B allomorphs to peptides of the classical length of 8-10 aa. We also demonstrate that tapasin facilitation varies for different peptide lengths, and that the correlation between high degree of tapasin facilitation and low stability is valid for different random peptide mixes of specific lengths. In conclusion, these data show that tapasin has specificity for the combination of peptide length and HLA-I allomorph, and suggest that tapasin promotes formation of pHLA-I complexes with high on and off rates, an important intermediary step in the HLA-I maturation process.
HLA-B*57 is strongly associated with immune control of HIV and delayed AIDS progression. The closely related, but less protective, HLA-B*58:01 presents similar epitopes, but HLA-B*58:01(+) individuals do not generate CD8(+) T cells targeting the KF11-Gag epitope, which has been linked to low viremia. Here we show that HLA-B*58:01 binds and presents KF11 peptide, but HIV-infected HLA-B*58:01(+) cells fail to process KF11. This unexpected finding demonstrates that immunodominance patterns can be influenced by intracellular events independent of HLA binding motifs.
The majority of clear-cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCC) show high and homogeneous expression levels of the tumor associated antigen (TAA) carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX), and treatment with interleukin-2 (IL-2) based immunotherapy can lead to cure in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC). However, the involvement of CAIX specific CD8+ T cells and/or NK cells in the tumor eradication is unknown. We investigated T cell and antibody reactivity against overlapping 15-mer CAIX-peptides as well as HLA haplotype frequency and NK cell cytotoxicity in 11 patients with no evidence of disease (NED) following treatment with IL-2 based immunotherapy, and thus potentially cured. Immune reactivity in these patients was compared with samples from patients with dramatic tumor response obtained immediately at the cessation of therapy, samples from patients that experienced progressive disease during treatment and samples from healthy controls. We observed more focused but only weak and not consistent CAIX specific T-cells in the late observation and early observation response groups compared with the healthy control group. An increased frequency of the class II alleles HLA-DRB4 01:01, HLA-DPB 01:01 and HLA-DPB 03:01 was noted in the NED patients. In contrast, NK cytotoxicity was low even in the late observation response group as compared with controls. In particular, a HLA-B*40:01 restricted CD8+ T cell response recognizing the CAIX- derived peptide SEEEGSLKL was identified. This may have interest in future cancer vaccines, but more studies are needed to elucidate the immunological mechanisms of action in potentially cured patients treated with an immunotherapeutic agent.
We have generated a panel of transgenic mice expressing HLA-A*01:03, -A*24:02, -B*08:01, -B*27:05, -B*35:01, -B*44:02, or -C*07:01 as chimeric monochain molecules (i.e., appropriate HLA ?1?2 H chain domains fused with a mouse ?3 domain and covalently linked to human ?2-microglobulin). Whereas surface expression of several transgenes was markedly reduced in recipient mice that coexpressed endogenous H-2 class I molecules, substantial surface expression of all human transgenes was observed in mice lacking H-2 class I molecules. In these HLA monochain transgenic/H-2 class I null mice, we observed a quantitative and qualitative restoration of the peripheral CD8(+) T cell repertoire, which exhibited a TCR diversity comparable with C57BL/6 WT mice. Potent epitope-specific, HLA-restricted, IFN-?-producing CD8(+) T cell responses were generated against known reference T cell epitopes after either peptide or DNA immunization. HLA-wise, these new transgenic strains encompass a large proportion of individuals from all major human races and ethnicities. In combination with the previously created HLA-A*02:01 and -B*07:02 transgenic mice, the novel HLA transgenic mice described in this report should be a versatile preclinical animal model that will speed up the identification and optimization of HLA-restricted CD8(+) T cell epitopes of potential interest in various autoimmune human diseases and in preclinical evaluation of T cell-based vaccines.
Major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII) molecules play an important role in cell-mediated immunity. They present specific peptides derived from endosomal proteins for recognition by T helper cells. The identification of peptides that bind to MHCII molecules is therefore of great importance for understanding the nature of immune responses and identifying T cell epitopes for the design of new vaccines and immunotherapies. Given the large number of MHC variants, and the costly experimental procedures needed to evaluate individual peptide-MHC interactions, computational predictions have become particularly attractive as first-line methods in epitope discovery. However, only a few so-called pan-specific prediction methods capable of predicting binding to any MHC molecule with known protein sequence are currently available, and all of them are limited to HLA-DR. Here, we present the first pan-specific method capable of predicting peptide binding to any HLA class II molecule with a defined protein sequence. The method employs a strategy common for HLA-DR, HLA-DP and HLA-DQ molecules to define the peptide-binding MHC environment in terms of a pseudo sequence. This strategy allows the inclusion of new molecules even from other species. The method was evaluated in several benchmarks and demonstrates a significant improvement over molecule-specific methods as well as the ability to predict peptide binding of previously uncharacterised MHCII molecules. To the best of our knowledge, the NetMHCIIpan-3.0 method is the first pan-specific predictor covering all HLA class II molecules with known sequences including HLA-DR, HLA-DP, and HLA-DQ. The NetMHCpan-3.0 method is available at http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetMHCIIpan-3.0 .
Human leukocyte allele (HLA) class I polymorphism has the greatest impact of human genetic variation on viral load set point. A substantial part of this effect is due to the action of HLA-B and HLA-C alleles. With few exceptions the role of HLA-A molecules in immune control of HIV is unclear.
The identification of peptides binding to major histocompatibility complexes (MHC) is a critical step in the understanding of T cell immune responses. The human MHC genomic region (HLA) is extremely polymorphic comprising several thousand alleles, many encoding a distinct molecule. The potentially unique specificities remain experimentally uncharacterized for the vast majority of HLA molecules. Likewise, for nonhuman species, only a minor fraction of the known MHC molecules have been characterized. Here, we describe a tool, MHCcluster, to functionally cluster MHC molecules based on their predicted binding specificity. The method has a flexible web interface that allows the user to include any MHC of interest in the analysis. The output consists of a static heat map and graphical tree-based visualizations of the functional relationship between MHC variants and a dynamic TreeViewer interface where both the functional relationship and the individual binding specificities of MHC molecules are visualized. We demonstrate that conventional sequence-based clustering will fail to identify the functional relationship between molecules, when applied to MHC system, and only through the use of the predicted binding specificity can a correct clustering be found. Clustering of prevalent HLA-A and HLA-B alleles using MHCcluster confirms the presence of 12 major specificity groups (supertypes) some however with highly divergent specificities. Importantly, some HLA molecules are shown not to fit any supertype classification. Also, we use MHCcluster to show that chimpanzee MHC class I molecules have a reduced functional diversity compared to that of HLA class I molecules. MHCcluster is available at www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/MHCcluster-2.0.
Mice were immunized twice with a pool of five peptides selected among twenty 8-9-mer peptides for their ability to form stable complexes at 37°C with recombinant H-2K(b) (half-lives 10-15h). Vaccine-induced immunity of splenic CD8(+) T cells was studied in a 24h IFN? Elispot assay. Surprisingly, IFN? spot-formation was observed without addition of peptide to the assay culture at 3 weeks and 3 months after immunization. To clarify if IFN? spot formation in the absence of peptide exposure ex vivo is caused by the peptide-pool per se, mice were immunized with single peptides. Three of the five peptides induced normal peptide immunity i.e. the specific T cell reactivity in the Elispot culture was strictly dependent on exposure to the immunizing peptide ex vivo. However, immunization with two of the peptides, a VSV- and a Mycobacterium-derived peptide, resulted in IFN? spot formation without peptide in the Elispot culture. Immunization with a mixture of the VSV-peptide and a "normal" peptide also resulted in IFN? spot formation without addition of peptide to the assay culture. Peptide-tetramer staining of CD8(+) T cells from mice immunized with a mixture of VSV-peptide and "normal" peptide showed peptide specific binding by CD8(+) T cells for both of the peptides. Thus, although immunization with certain peptides alone or in a mixture of peptides may result in IFN? spot formation without peptide in the assay culture, specific immunity against the individual immunizing peptide in the mixture remains intact. Our data suggest that certain peptides exhibit sustained immunogenicity in vivo for prolonged periods of time.
CD8+ T cells (TCD8) confer protective immunity against many infectious diseases, suggesting that microbial TCD8 determinants are promising vaccine targets. Nevertheless, current T cell antigen identification approaches do not discern which epitopes drive protective immunity during active infection - information that is critical for the rational design of TCD8-targeted vaccines. We employed a proteomics-based approach for large-scale discovery of naturally processed determinants derived from a complex pathogen, vaccinia virus (VACV), that are presented by the most frequent representatives of four major HLA class I supertypes. Immunologic characterization revealed that many previously unidentified VACV determinants were recognized by smallpox-vaccinated human peripheral blood cells in a variegated manner. Many such determinants were recognized by HLA class I-transgenic mouse immune TCD8 too and elicited protective TCD8 immunity against lethal intranasal VACV infection. Notably, efficient processing and stable presentation of immune determinants as well as the availability of naive TCD8 precursors were sufficient to drive a multifunctional, protective TCD8 response. Our approach uses fundamental insights into T cell epitope processing and presentation to define targets of protective TCD8 immunity within human pathogens that have complex proteomes, suggesting that this approach has general applicability in vaccine sciences.
We here report a novel phage display selection strategy enabling fast and easy selection of thermostabilized proteins. The approach is illustrated with stabilization of an aggregation-prone soluble single chain T cell receptor (scTCR) characteristic of the murine MOPC315 myeloma model. Random mutation scTCR phage libraries were prepared in E. coli over-expressing the periplasmic chaperone FkpA, and such over-expression during library preparation proved crucial for successful downstream selection. The thermostabilized scTCR(mut) variants selected were produced in high yields and isolated as monomers. Thus, the purified scTCRs could be studied with regard to specificity and equilibrium binding kinetics to pMHC using surface plasmon resonance (SPR). The results demonstrate a difference in affinity for pMHCs that display germ line or tumor-specific peptides which explains the tumor-specific reactivity of the TCR. This FkpA-assisted thermostabilization strategy extends the utility of recombinant TCRs and furthermore, may be of general use for efficient evolution of proteins.
Targeting CD4+ T cells through their unique antigen-specific, MHC class II-restricted T cell receptor makes MHC class II tetramers an attractive strategy to identify, validate and manipulate these cells at the single cell level. Currently, generating class II tetramers is a specialized undertaking effectively limiting their use and emphasizing the need for improved methods of production. Using class II chains expressed individually in E. coli as versatile recombinant reagents, we have previously generated peptide-MHC class II monomers, but failed to generate functional class II tetramers. Adding a monomer purification principle based upon affinity-tagged peptides, we here provide a robust method to produce class II tetramers and demonstrate staining of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells. We also provide evidence that both MHC class II and T cell receptor molecules largely accept affinity-tagged peptides. As a general approach to class II tetramer generation, this method should support rational CD4+ T cell epitope discovery as well as enable specific monitoring and manipulation of CD4+ T cell responses.
Recent studies in the SIV-macaque model of HIV infection suggest that Nef-specific CD8+ T-cell responses may mediate highly effective immune control of viraemia. In HIV infection Nef recognition dominates in acute infection, but in large cohort studies of chronically infected subjects, breadth of T cell responses to Nef has not been correlated with significant viraemic control. Improved disease outcomes have instead been associated with targeting Gag and, in some cases, Pol. However analyses of the breadth of Nef-specific T cell responses have been confounded by the extreme immunogenicity and multiple epitope overlap within the central regions of Nef, making discrimination of distinct responses impossible via IFN-gamma ELISPOT assays. Thus an alternative approach to assess Nef as an immune target is needed. Here, we show in a cohort of >700 individuals with chronic C-clade infection that >50% of HLA-B-selected polymorphisms within Nef are associated with a predicted fitness cost to the virus, and that HLA-B alleles that successfully drive selection within Nef are those linked with lower viral loads. Furthermore, the specific CD8+ T cell epitopes that are restricted by protective HLA Class I alleles correspond substantially to effective SIV-specific epitopes in Nef. Distinguishing such individual HIV-specific responses within Nef requires specific peptide-MHC I tetramers. Overall, these data suggest that CD8+ T cell targeting of certain specific Nef epitopes contributes to HIV suppression. These data suggest that a re-evaluation of the potential use of Nef in HIV T-cell vaccine candidates would be justified.
The genetic polymorphism that has the greatest impact on immune control of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is expression of HLA-B*57. Understanding of the mechanism for this strong effect remains incomplete. HLA-B*57 alleles and the closely related HLA-B*5801 are often grouped together because of their similar peptide-binding motifs and HIV disease outcome associations. However, we show here that the apparently small differences between HLA-B*57 alleles, termed HLA-B*57 micropolymorphisms, have a significant impact on immune control of HIV. In a study cohort of >2,000 HIV C-clade-infected subjects from southern Africa, HLA-B*5703 is associated with a lower viral-load set point than HLA-B*5702 and HLA-B*5801 (medians, 5,980, 15,190, and 19,000 HIV copies/ml plasma; P = 0.24 and P = 0.0005). In order to better understand these observed differences in HLA-B*57/5801-mediated immune control of HIV, we undertook, in a study of >1,000 C-clade-infected subjects, a comprehensive analysis of the epitopes presented by these 3 alleles and of the selection pressure imposed on HIV by each response. In contrast to previous studies, we show that each of these three HLA alleles is characterized both by unique CD8(+) T-cell specificities and by clear-cut differences in selection pressure imposed on the virus by those responses. These studies comprehensively define for the first time the CD8(+) T-cell responses and immune selection pressures for which these protective alleles are responsible. These findings are consistent with HLA class I alleles mediating effective immune control of HIV through the number of p24 Gag-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses generated that can drive significant selection pressure on the virus.
Mutation in the p53 gene based on single amino acid substitutions is a frequent event in human cancer. Accumulated mutant p53 protein is released to antigen presenting cells of the immune system and anti-p53 immune responses even against wt p53 is induced and observed in a number of human cancer patients. Detection of antibodies against wt p53 protein has been used as a diagnostic and prognostic marker and discovery of new T-cell epitopes has enabled design of cancer vaccination protocols with promising results. Here, we identified wt p53-specific antibodies in various cancer patients and identified a broad range of responses against wt p53 protein and 15-mer peptides using a novel print array technology. Likewise, using bioinformatic tools in silico, we identified CD8 T-cell specificity or reactivity against HLA-A*02:01 binding peptides wt p53(65-73), wt p53(187-197), and wt p53(264-272) in breast cancer patients and against HLA-A*01:01 binding peptide wt p53(226-234) and HLA-B*07:02 binding peptide wt p53(74-82) in renal cell cancer and breast cancer patients, respectively. Finally, we analyzed antibody and T-cell responses against wt p53 15-mer peptides in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma who were alive with no evidence of disease after a follow-up period of minimum 5 years after treatment with IL-2 ± IFN-? ± histamine containing immunotherapy to identify novel epitopes for use in immunotherapy and for potential response biomarkers. However, none of the wt p53 reactivity observed justified use of 15-mer or was related to survival in this rare patient population.
Synthetic peptides are widely used in immunological research as epitopes to stimulate their cognate T cells. These preparations are never completely pure, but trace contaminants are commonly revealed by mass spectrometry quality controls. In an effort to characterize novel major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class I-restricted ?-cell epitopes in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, we identified islet-infiltrating CD8+ T cells recognizing a contaminating peptide. The amount of this contaminant was so small to be undetectable by direct mass spectrometry. Only after concentration by liquid chromatography, we observed a mass peak corresponding to an immunodominant islet-specific glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit-related protein (IGRP)(206-214) epitope described in the literature. Generation of CD8+ T-cell clones recognizing IGRP(206-214) using a novel method confirmed the identity of the contaminant, further underlining the immunodominance of IGRP(206-214). If left undetected, minute impurities in synthetic peptide preparations may thus give spurious results.
Recent advances in high-throughput technologies have made it possible to generate both gene and protein sequence data at an unprecedented rate and scale thereby enabling entirely new "omics"-based approaches towards the analysis of complex biological processes. However, the amount and complexity of data that even a single experiment can produce seriously challenges researchers with limited bioinformatics expertise, who need to handle, analyze and interpret the data before it can be understood in a biological context. Thus, there is an unmet need for tools allowing non-bioinformatics users to interpret large data sets. We have recently developed a method, NNAlign, which is generally applicable to any biological problem where quantitative peptide data is available. This method efficiently identifies underlying sequence patterns by simultaneously aligning peptide sequences and identifying motifs associated with quantitative readouts. Here, we provide a web-based implementation of NNAlign allowing non-expert end-users to submit their data (optionally adjusting method parameters), and in return receive a trained method (including a visual representation of the identified motif) that subsequently can be used as prediction method and applied to unknown proteins/peptides. We have successfully applied this method to several different data sets including peptide microarray-derived sets containing more than 100,000 data points. NNAlign is available online at http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NNAlign.
Epitopes from all available full-length sequences of yellow fever virus (YFV) and dengue fever virus (DENV) restricted by Human Leukocyte Antigen class I (HLA-I) alleles covering 12 HLA-I supertypes were predicted using the NetCTL algorithm. A subset of 179 predicted YFV and 158 predicted DENV epitopes were selected using the EpiSelect algorithm to allow for optimal coverage of viral strains. The selected predicted epitopes were synthesized and approximately 75% were found to bind the predicted restricting HLA molecule with an affinity, K(D), stronger than 500 nM. The immunogenicity of 25 HLA-A*02:01, 28 HLA-A*24:02 and 28 HLA-B*07:02 binding peptides was tested in three HLA-transgenic mice models and led to the identification of 17 HLA-A*02:01, 4 HLA-A*2402 and 4 HLA-B*07:02 immunogenic peptides. The immunogenic peptides bound HLA significantly stronger than the non-immunogenic peptides. All except one of the immunogenic peptides had K(D) below 100 nM and the peptides with K(D) below 5 nM were more likely to be immunogenic. In addition, all the immunogenic peptides that were identified as having a high functional avidity had K(D) below 20 nM. A*02:01 transgenic mice were also inoculated twice with the 17DD YFV vaccine strain. Three of the YFV A*02:01 restricted peptides activated T-cells from the infected mice in vitro. All three peptides that elicited responses had an HLA binding affinity of 2 nM or less. The results indicate the importance of the strength of HLA binding in shaping the immune response.
A plethora of peptides are generated intracellularly, and most peptide-human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-I interactions are of a transient, unproductive nature. Without a quality control mechanism, the HLA-I system would be stressed by futile attempts to present peptides not sufficient for the stable peptide-HLA-I complex formation required for long term presentation. Tapasin is thought to be central to this essential quality control, but the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Here, we report that the N-terminal region of tapasin, Tpn(1-87), assisted folding of peptide-HLA-A*02:01 complexes according to the identity of the peptide. The facilitation was also specific for the identity of the HLA-I heavy chain, where it correlated to established tapasin dependence hierarchies. Two large sets of HLA-A*02:01 binding peptides, one extracted from natural HLA-I ligands from the SYFPEITHI database and one consisting of medium to high affinity non-SYFPEITHI ligands, were studied in the context of HLA-A*02:01 binding and stability. We show that the SYFPEITHI peptides induced more stable HLA-A*02:01 molecules than the other ligands, although affinities were similar. Remarkably, Tpn(1-87) could functionally discriminate the selected SYFPEITHI peptides from the other peptide binders with high sensitivity and specificity. We suggest that this HLA-I- and peptide-specific function, together with the functions exerted by the more C-terminal parts of tapasin, are major features of tapasin-mediated HLA-I quality control. These findings are important for understanding the biogenesis of HLA-I molecules, the selection of presented T-cell epitopes, and the identification of immunogenic targets in both basic research and vaccine design.
The potential contribution of HLA-A alleles to viremic control in chronic HIV type 1 (HIV-1) infection has been relatively understudied compared with HLA-B. In these studies, we show that HLA-A*7401 is associated with favorable viremic control in extended southern African cohorts of >2100 C-clade-infected subjects. We present evidence that HLA-A*7401 operates an effect that is independent of HLA-B*5703, with which it is in linkage disequilibrium in some populations, to mediate lowered viremia. We describe a novel statistical approach to detecting additive effects between class I alleles in control of HIV-1 disease, highlighting improved viremic control in subjects with HLA-A*7401 combined with HLA-B*57. In common with HLA-B alleles that are associated with effective control of viremia, HLA-A*7401 presents highly targeted epitopes in several proteins, including Gag, Pol, Rev, and Nef, of which the Gag epitopes appear immunodominant. We identify eight novel putative HLA-A*7401-restricted epitopes, of which three have been defined to the optimal epitope. In common with HLA-B alleles linked with slow progression, viremic control through an HLA-A*7401-restricted response appears to be associated with the selection of escape mutants within Gag epitopes that reduce viral replicative capacity. These studies highlight the potentially important contribution of an HLA-A allele to immune control of HIV infection, which may have been concealed by a stronger effect mediated by an HLA-B allele with which it is in linkage disequilibrium. In addition, these studies identify a factor contributing to different HIV disease outcomes in individuals expressing HLA-B*5703.
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are known to play an important role in the control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection so identification of CTL epitopes from M. tuberculosis is of importance for the development of effective peptide-based vaccines. In the present work, bioinformatics technology was employed to predict binding motifs of 9mer peptides derived from M. tuberculosis for the 12 HLA-I supertypes. Subsequently, the predicted peptides were synthesized and assayed for binding to HLA-I molecules in a biochemically based system. The antigenicity of a total of 157 peptides with measured affinity for HLA-I molecules of K(D) ? 500 nM were evaluated using peripheral blood T cells from strongly purified protein derivative reactive healthy donors. Of the 157 peptides, eight peptides (5%) were found to induce T-cell responses. As judged from blocking with HLA class I and II subtype antibodies in the ELISPOT assay culture, none of the eight antigenic peptides induced HLA class I restricted CD8(+) T-cell responses. Instead all responses were blocked by pan-HLA class II and anti-HLA-DR antibodies. In addition, CD4(+) T-cell depletion before the 10 days of expansion, resulted in total loss of reactivity in the ELISPOT culture for most peptide specificities. FACS analyses with intracellular interferon-? staining of T cells expanded in the presence of M. tuberculosis peptides confirmed that the responsive cells were indeed CD4(+). In conclusion, T-cell immunity against HLA-I binding 9mer M. tuberculosis-derived peptides might in many cases turn out to be mediated by CD4(+) T cells and restricted by HLA-II molecules. The use of 9mer peptides recognized by both CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells might be of importance for the development of future M. tuberculosis peptide-based vaccines.
Although CD8(+) T cells help control Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, their M. tuberculosis Ag repertoire, in vivo frequency, and functionality in human tuberculosis (TB) remains largely undefined. We have performed genome-based bioinformatics searches to identify new M. tuberculosis epitopes presented by major HLA class I supertypes A2, A3, and B7 (covering 80% of the human population). A total of 432 M. tuberculosis peptides predicted to bind to HLA-A*0201, HLA-A*0301, and HLA-B*0702 (representing the above supertypes) were synthesized and HLA-binding affinities determined. Peptide-specific CD8(+) T cell proliferation assays (CFSE dilution) in 41 M. tuberculosis-responsive donors identified 70 new M. tuberculosis epitopes. Using HLA/peptide tetramers for the 18 most prominently recognized HLA-A*0201-binding M. tuberculosis peptides, recognition by cured TB patients CD8(+) T cells was validated for all 18 epitopes. Intracellular cytokine staining for IFN-?, IL-2, and TNF-? revealed mono-, dual-, as well as triple-positive CD8(+) T cells, indicating these M. tuberculosis peptide-specific CD8(+) T cells were (poly)functional. Moreover, these T cells were primed during natural infection, because they were absent from M. tuberculosis-noninfected individuals. Control CMV peptide/HLA-A*0201 tetramers stained CD8(+) T cells in M. tuberculosis-infected and noninfected individuals equally, whereas Ebola peptide/HLA-A*0201 tetramers were negative. In conclusion, the M. tuberculosis-epitope/Ag repertoire for human CD8(+) T cells is much broader than hitherto suspected, and the newly identified M. tuberculosis Ags are recognized by (poly)functional CD8(+) T cells during control of infection. These results impact on TB-vaccine design and biomarker identification.
Efficient presentation of peptide-MHC class I complexes to immune T cells depends upon stable peptide-MHC class I interactions. Theoretically, determining the rate of dissociation of a peptide-MHC class I complexes is straightforward; in practical terms, however, generating the accurate and closely timed data needed to determine the rate of dissociation is not simple. Ideally, one should use a homogenous assay involving an inexhaustible and label-free assay principle. Here, we present a homogenous, high-throughput peptide-MHC class I dissociation assay, which by and large fulfill these ideal requirements. To avoid labeling of the highly variable peptide, we labeled the invariant ?2m and monitored its dissociation by a scintillation proximity assay, which has no separation steps and allows for real-time quantitative measurement of dissociation. Validating this work-around to create a virtually label-free assay, we showed that rates of peptide-MHC class I dissociation measured in this assay correlated well with rates of dissociation rates measured conventionally with labeled peptides. This assay can be used to measure the stability of any peptide-MHC class I combination, it is reproducible and it is well suited for high-throughput screening. To exemplify this, we screened a panel of 384 high-affinity peptides binding to the MHC class I molecule, HLA-A*02:01, and observed the rates of dissociation that ranged from 0.1h to 46h depending on the peptide used.
Binding of peptides to Major Histocompatibility class II (MHC-II) molecules play a central role in governing responses of the adaptive immune system. MHC-II molecules sample peptides from the extracellular space allowing the immune system to detect the presence of foreign microbes from this compartment. Predicting which peptides bind to an MHC-II molecule is therefore of pivotal importance for understanding the immune response and its effect on host-pathogen interactions. The experimental cost associated with characterizing the binding motif of an MHC-II molecule is significant and large efforts have therefore been placed in developing accurate computer methods capable of predicting this binding event. Prediction of peptide binding to MHC-II is complicated by the open binding cleft of the MHC-II molecule, allowing binding of peptides extending out of the binding groove. Moreover, the genes encoding the MHC molecules are immensely diverse leading to a large set of different MHC molecules each potentially binding a unique set of peptides. Characterizing each MHC-II molecule using peptide-screening binding assays is hence not a viable option.
Major Histocompatibility class II (MHC-II) molecules sample peptides from the extracellular space allowing the immune system to detect the presence of foreign microbes from this compartment. Prediction of MHC class II ligands is complicated by the open binding cleft of the MHC class II molecule, allowing binding of peptides extending out of the binding groove. Furthermore, only a few HLA-DR alleles have been characterized with a sufficient number of peptides (100-200 peptides per allele) to derive accurate description of their binding motif. Little work has been performed characterizing structural properties of MHC class II ligands. Here, we perform one such large-scale analysis. A large set of SYFPEITHI MHC class II ligands covering more than 20 different HLA-DR molecules was analyzed in terms of their secondary structure and surface exposure characteristics in the context of the native structure of the corresponding source protein. We demonstrated that MHC class II ligands are significantly more exposed and have significantly more coil content than other peptides in the same protein with similar predicted binding affinity. We next exploited this observation to derive an improved prediction method for MHC class II ligands by integrating prediction of MHC- peptide binding with prediction of surface exposure and protein secondary structure. This combined prediction method was shown to significantly outperform the state-of-the-art MHC class II peptide binding prediction method when used to identify MHC class II ligands. We also tried to integrate N- and O-glycosylation in our prediction methods but this additional information was found not to improve prediction performance. In summary, these findings strongly suggest that local structural properties influence antigen processing and/or the accessibility of peptides to the MHC class II molecule.
Traditionally, T cell epitope discovery requires considerable amounts of tedious, slow, and costly experimental work. During the last decade, prediction tools have emerged as essential tools allowing researchers to select a manageable list of epitope candidates to test from a larger peptide, protein, or even proteome. However, no current tools address the complexity caused by the highly polymorphic nature of the restricting HLA molecules, which effectively individualizes T cell responses. To fill this gap, we here present an easy-to-use prediction tool named HLArestrictor ( http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/HLArestrictor ), which is based on the highly versatile and accurate NetMHCpan predictor, which here has been optimized for the identification of both the MHC restriction element and the corresponding minimal epitope of a T cell response in a given individual. As input, it requires high-resolution (i.e., 4-digit) HLA typing of the individual. HLArestrictor then predicts all 8-11mer peptide binders within one or more larger peptides and provides an overview of the predicted HLA restrictions and minimal epitopes. The method was tested on a large dataset of HIV IFN? ELIspot peptide responses and was shown to identify HLA restrictions and minimal epitopes for about 90% of the positive peptide/patient pairs while rejecting more than 95% of the negative peptide-HLA pairs. Furthermore, for 18 peptide/HLA tetramer validated responses, HLArestrictor in all cases predicted both the HLA restriction element and minimal epitope. Thus, HLArestrictor should be a valuable tool in any T cell epitope discovery process aimed at identifying new epitopes from infectious diseases and other disease models.
The association between HLA-B 2705 and the immune control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has previously been linked to the targeting of the HLA-B 2705-restricted Gag epitope KRWIILGLNK (KK10) by CD8(+) T cells. In order to better define the mechanisms of the HLA-B 2705 immune control of HIV, we first characterized the CD8(+) T-cell responses of nine highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)-naïve B 2705-positive subjects. Unexpectedly, we observed a strong response to an HLA-B 2705-restricted Pol epitope, KRKGGIGGY (KY9), in 8/9 subjects. The magnitude of the KY9 response was only marginally lower than that of the KK10-specific response (median, 695 versus 867 spot-forming cells [SFC]/million peripheral blood mononuclear cells [PBMCs]; not significant [NS]), and viral escape mutants were observed in both KY9 and KK10, resulting from selection pressure driven by the respective CD8(+) T-cell response. By comparing inhibitions of viral replication by CD8(+) T cells specific for the Gag KK10, Pol KY9, and Vpr VL9 HLA-B 2705-restricted epitopes, we observed a consistent hierarchy of antiviral efficacy (Gag KK10 > Pol KY9 > Vpr VL9). This hierarchy was associated with early recognition of HIV-1-infected cells, within 6 h of infection, by KK10- and KY9-specific CD8(+) T cells but not until 18 h postinfection by VL9-specific CD8(+) T cells. There was no association between antiviral efficacy and proliferative capacity, cytotoxicity, polyfunctionality, or T-cell receptor (TCR) avidity. These data are consistent with previous studies indicating an important role for the B 2705-Gag KK10 response in the control of HIV but also suggest a previously unrecognized role played by the subdominant Pol-specific KY9 response in HLA-B 2705-mediated control of HIV and that the recognition of HIV-infected cells by CD8(+) T cells early in the viral life cycle may be important for viral containment in HIV-infected individuals.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a growing threat to public health and a greater understanding of the immune response raised against WNV is important for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic strategies.
Over the last decade, in silico models of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I pathway have developed significantly. Before, peptide binding could only be reliably modelled for a few major human or mouse histocompatibility molecules; now, high-accuracy predictions are available for any human leucocyte antigen (HLA) -A or -B molecule with known protein sequence. Furthermore, peptide binding to MHC molecules from several non-human primates, mouse strains and other mammals can now be predicted. In this review, a number of different prediction methods are briefly explained, highlighting the most useful and historically important. Selected case stories, where these reverse immunology systems have been used in actual epitope discovery, are briefly reviewed. We conclude that this new generation of epitope discovery systems has become a highly efficient tool for epitope discovery, and recommend that the less accurate prediction systems of the past be abandoned, as these are obsolete.
Major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) molecules sample peptides from the extracellular space, allowing the immune system to detect the presence of foreign microbes from this compartment. To be able to predict the immune response to given pathogens, a number of methods have been developed to predict peptide-MHC binding. However, few methods other than the pioneering TEPITOPE/ProPred method have been developed for MHC-II. Despite recent progress in method development, the predictive performance for MHC-II remains significantly lower than what can be obtained for MHC-I. One reason for this is that the MHC-II molecule is open at both ends allowing binding of peptides extending out of the groove. The binding core of MHC-II-bound peptides is therefore not known a priori and the binding motif is hence not readily discernible. Recent progress has been obtained by including the flanking residues in the predictions. All attempts to make ab initio predictions based on protein structure have failed to reach predictive performances similar to those that can be obtained by data-driven methods. Thousands of different MHC-II alleles exist in humans. Recently developed pan-specific methods have been able to make reasonably accurate predictions for alleles that were not included in the training data. These methods can be used to define supertypes (clusters) of MHC-II alleles where alleles within each supertype have similar binding specificities. Furthermore, the pan-specific methods have been used to make a graphical atlas such as the MHCMotifviewer, which allows for visual comparison of specificities of different alleles.
Recent human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccination strategies aim at targeting a broad range of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes from different HIV-1 proteins by immunization with multiple CTL epitopes simultaneously. However, this may establish an immune hierarchical response, where the immune system responds to only a small number of the epitopes administered. To evaluate the feasibility of such vaccine strategies, we used the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*0201 transgenic (tg) HHD murine in vivo model and immunized with dendritic cells pulsed with seven HIV-1-derived HLA-A*0201 binding CTL epitopes. The seven peptides were simultaneously presented on the same dendritic cell (DC) or on separate DCs before immunization to one or different lymphoid compartments. Data from this study showed that the T-cell response, as measured by cytolytic activity and gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma)-producing CD8(+) T cells, mainly focused on two of seven administered epitopes. The magnitude of individual T-cell responses induced by immunization with multiple peptides correlated with their individual immunogenicity that depended on major histocompatibility class I binding and was not influenced by mode of loading or mode of immunization. These findings may have implications for the design of vaccines based on DCs when using multiple epitopes simultaneously.
Tapasin (Tpn) is an ER chaperone that is uniquely dedicated to MHC-I biosynthesis. It binds MHC-I molecules, integrates them into peptide-loading complexes, and exerts quality control of the bound peptides; only when an "optimal peptide" is bound will the MHC-I be released and exported to the cell surface for presentation to T cells. The exact mechanisms of Tpn quality control and the criteria for being an optimal peptide are still unknown. Here, we have generated a recombinant fragment of human Tpn, Tpn(1-87) (representing the 87 N-terminal and ER-luminal amino acids of the mature Tpn protein). Using a biochemical peptide-MHC-I-binding assay, recombinant Tpn(1-87) was found to specifically facilitate peptide-dependent folding of HLA-A*0201. Furthermore, we used Tpn(1-87) to generate a monoclonal antibody, alphaTpn(1-87)/80, specific for natural human Tpn and capable of cellular staining of ER localized Tpn. Using overlapping peptides, the epitope of alphaTpn(1-87)/80 was located to Tpn(40-44), which maps to a surface-exposed loop on the Tpn structure. Together, these results demonstrate that the N-terminal region of Tpn can be recombinantly expressed and adopt a structure, which at least partially resembles that of WT Tpn, and that this region of Tpn features chaperone activity facilitating peptide binding of MHC-I.
Fusion tags add desirable properties to recombinant proteins, but they are not necessarily acceptable in the final products. Ideally, fusion tags should be removed releasing the intact native protein with no trace of the tag. Unique endoproteinases with the ability to cleave outside their own recognition sequence can potentially cleave at the boundary of any native protein. Chymosin was recently shown to cleave a pro-chymosin derived fusion tag releasing native target proteins. In our hands, however, not all proteins are chymosin-resistant under the acidic cleavage conditions (pH 4.5) used in this system. Here, we have modified the pro-chymosin fusion tag and demonstrated that chymosin can remove this tag at more neutral pH (pH 6.2); conditions, that are less prone to compromise the integrity of target proteins. Chymosin was successfully used to produce intact native target protein both at the level of small and large-scale preparations. Using short peptide substrates, we further examined the influence of P1 amino acid (the N-terminus of the native target protein) and found that chymosin accepts many different, although not all, amino acids. We conclude that chymosin has several appealing characteristics for the exact removal of fusion tags. It is readily available in highly purified recombinant versions approved by the FDA for preparation of food for human consumption. We suggest that one should consider extending the use of chymosin to the preparation of pharmaceutical proteins.
Although cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in people infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 can potentially target multiple virus epitopes, the same few are recognized repeatedly. We show here that CTL immunodominance in regions of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 group-associated antigen proteins p17 and p24 correlated with epitope abundance, which was strongly influenced by proteasomal digestion profiles, affinity for the transporter protein TAP, and trimming mediated by the endoplasmatic reticulum aminopeptidase ERAAP, and was moderately influenced by HLA affinity. Structural and functional analyses demonstrated that proteasomal cleavage preferences modulated the number and length of epitope-containing peptides, thereby affecting the response avidity and clonality of T cells. Cleavage patterns were affected by both flanking and intraepitope CTL-escape mutations. Our analyses show that antigen processing shapes CTL response hierarchies and that viral evolution modifies cleavage patterns and suggest strategies for in vitro vaccine optimization.
Development of methods for efficient in vitro stimulation and expansion of peptide specific CD8(+) T cells is compelling not only with respect to adoptive T cell therapy but also regarding analysis of T cell responses and search for new immunogenic peptides. In the present study, a new approach to in vitro T cell stimulation was investigated. By use of an antigenic peptide derived from the cytomegalovirus (CMVp) we tested the stimulatory efficacy of recombinant plate bound MHC molecules (PB-MHC), being immobilized in culture plates. A single stimulation of non-adherent peripheral blood mononuclear cells (NA-PBMCs) with PB-MHC/CMVp resulted in significant expansion of CMVp specific CD8(+) T cells, which was comparable to that achieved by CMVp pulsed mature dendritic cells (DCs). By repeated exposure of NA-PBMCs to PB-MHC/CMVp more than 60% CMVp specific CD8(+) T cells, representing a 240-fold expansion, were reached after only two stimulations. Although stimulation with PB-MHC/CMVp clearly demonstrated efficient peptide specific expansion of CD8(+) T cells, there was a tendency to proliferative exhaustion of the cells after 3-4 stimulations. Thus, it will be of interest to examine the effect of new stimulatory cocktails, e.g. cytokines and co-stimulatory molecules, by use of the present rapid and easy-to-use method of expanding peptide specific T cells.
Binding of peptides to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules is the single most selective step in the recognition of pathogens by the cellular immune system. The human MHC genomic region (called HLA) is extremely polymorphic comprising several thousand alleles, each encoding a distinct MHC molecule. The potentially unique specificity of the majority of HLA alleles that have been identified to date remains uncharacterized. Likewise, only a limited number of chimpanzee and rhesus macaque MHC class I molecules have been characterized experimentally. Here, we present NetMHCpan-2.0, a method that generates quantitative predictions of the affinity of any peptide-MHC class I interaction. NetMHCpan-2.0 has been trained on the hitherto largest set of quantitative MHC binding data available, covering HLA-A and HLA-B, as well as chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, gorilla, and mouse MHC class I molecules. We show that the NetMHCpan-2.0 method can accurately predict binding to uncharacterized HLA molecules, including HLA-C and HLA-G. Moreover, NetMHCpan-2.0 is demonstrated to accurately predict peptide binding to chimpanzee and macaque MHC class I molecules. The power of NetMHCpan-2.0 to guide immunologists in interpreting cellular immune responses in large out-bred populations is demonstrated. Further, we used NetMHCpan-2.0 to predict potential binding peptides for the pig MHC class I molecule SLA-1*0401. Ninety-three percent of the predicted peptides were demonstrated to bind stronger than 500 nM. The high performance of NetMHCpan-2.0 for non-human primates documents the methods ability to provide broad allelic coverage also beyond human MHC molecules. The method is available at http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/services/NetMHCpan.
The Human MHC Project aims at large-scale description of peptide-HLA binding to a wide range of HLA molecules covering all populations of the world and the accompanying generation of bioinformatics tools capable of predicting binding of any given peptide to any given HLA molecule. Here, the authors present a homogenous, proximity-based assay for detection of peptide binding to HLA class I molecules. It uses a conformation-dependent anti-HLA class I antibody, W6/32, as one tag and a biotinylated recombinant HLA class I molecule as the other tag, and a proximity-based signal is generated through the luminescent oxygen channeling immunoassay technology (abbreviated LOCI and commercialized as AlphaScreen). Compared with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay-based peptide-HLA class I binding assay, the LOCI assay yields virtually identical affinity measurements, although having a broader dynamic range, better signal-to-background ratios, and a higher capacity. They also describe an efficient approach to screen peptides for binding to HLA molecules. For the occasional user, this will serve as a robust, simple peptide-HLA binding assay. For the more dedicated user, it can easily be performed in a high-throughput screening mode using standard liquid handling robotics and 384-well plates. We have successfully applied this assay to more than 60 different HLA molecules, leading to more than 2 million measurements.
Molecules of the class II major histocompability complex (MHC-II) specifically bind and present exogenously derived peptide epitopes to CD4+ T helper cells. The extreme polymorphism of the MHC-II hampers the complete analysis of peptide binding. It is also a significant hurdle in the generation of MHC-II molecules as reagents to study and manipulate specific T helper cell responses. Methods to generate functional MHC-II molecules recombinantly, and measure their interaction with peptides, would be highly desirable; however, no consensus methodology has yet emerged.
Aberrant glycosylation of mucins and other extracellular proteins is an important event in carcinogenesis and the resulting cancer associated glycans have been suggested as targets in cancer immunotherapy. We assessed the role of O-linked GalNAc glycosylation on antigen uptake, processing, and presentation on MHC class I and II molecules. The effect of GalNAc O-glycosylation was monitored with a model system based on ovalbumin (OVA)-MUC1 fusion peptides (+/- glycosylation) loaded onto dendritic cells co-cultured with IL-2 secreting OVA peptide-specific T cell hybridomas. To evaluate the in vivo response to a cancer related tumor antigen, Balb/c or B6.Cg(CB)-Tg(HLA-A/H2-D)2Enge/J (HLA-A2 transgenic) mice were immunized with a non-glycosylated or GalNAc-glycosylated MUC1 derived peptide followed by comparison of T cell proliferation, IFN-? release, and antibody induction. GalNAc-glycosylation promoted presentation of OVA-MUC1 fusion peptides by MHC class II molecules and the MUC1 antigen elicited specific Ab production and T cell proliferation in both Balb/c and HLA-A2 transgenic mice. In contrast, GalNAc-glycosylation inhibited the presentation of OVA-MUC1 fusion peptides by MHC class I and abolished MUC1 specific CD8+ T cell responses in HLA-A2 transgenic mice. GalNAc glycosylation of MUC1 antigen therefore facilitates uptake, MHC class II presentation, and antibody response but might block the antigen presentation to CD8+ T cells.
The cartography of ?-cell epitopes targeted by CD8(+) T cells in type 1 diabetic (T1D) patients remains largely confined to the common HLA-A2 restriction. We aimed to identify ?-cell epitopes restricted by the HLA-B7 (B*07:02) molecule, which is associated with mild T1D protection. Using DNA immunization on HLA-B7-transgenic mice and prediction algorithms, we identified GAD and preproinsulin candidate epitopes. Interferon-? (IFN-?) enzyme-linked immunospot assays on peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed that most candidates were recognized by new-onset T1D patients, but not by type 2 diabetic and healthy subjects. Some epitopes were highly immunodominant and specific to either T1D children (GAD(530-538); 44% T cell-positive patients) or adults (GAD(311-320); 38%). All epitopes displayed weak binding affinity and stability for HLA-B7 compared with HLA-A2-restricted ones, a general feature of HLA-B7. Single-cell PCR analysis on ?-cell-specific (HLA-B7 tetramer-positive) T cells revealed uniform IFN-? and transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?) mRNA expression, different from HLA-A2-restricted T cells. We conclude that HLA-B7-restricted islet epitopes display weak HLA-binding profiles, are different in T1D children and adults, and are recognized by IFN-?(+)TGF-?(+)CD8(+) T cells. These features may explain the T1D-protective effect of HLA-B7. The novel epitopes identified should find valuable applications for immune staging of HLA-B7(+) individuals.
Antibodies empower numerous important scientific, clinical, diagnostic, and industrial applications. Ideally, the epitope(s) targeted by an antibody should be identified and characterized, thereby establishing antibody reactivity, highlighting possible cross-reactivities, and perhaps even warning against unwanted (e.g. autoimmune) reactivities. Antibodies target proteins as either conformational or linear epitopes. The latter are typically probed with peptides, but the cost of peptide screening programs tends to prohibit comprehensive specificity analysis. To perform high-throughput, high-resolution mapping of linear antibody epitopes, we have used ultrahigh-density peptide microarrays generating several hundred thousand different peptides per array. Using exhaustive length and substitution analysis, we have successfully examined the specificity of a panel of polyclonal antibodies raised against linear epitopes of the human proteome and obtained very detailed descriptions of the involved specificities. The epitopes identified ranged from 4 to 12 amino acids in size. In general, the antibodies were of exquisite specificity, frequently disallowing even single conservative substitutions. In several cases, multiple distinct epitopes could be identified for the same target protein, suggesting an efficient approach to the generation of paired antibodies. Two alternative epitope mapping approaches identified similar, although not necessarily identical, epitopes. These results show that ultrahigh-density peptide microarrays can be used for linear epitope mapping. With an upper theoretical limit of 2,000,000 individual peptides per array, these peptide microarrays may even be used for a systematic validation of antibodies at the proteomic level.
The strongest genetic influence on immune control in HIV-1 infection is the HLA class I genotype. Rapid disease progression in B-clade infection has been linked to HLA-B*35 expression, in particular to the less common HLA-B*3502 and HLA-B*3503 subtypes but also to the most prevalent subtype, HLA-B*3501. In these studies we first demonstrated that whereas HLA-B*3501 is associated with a high viral set point in two further B-clade-infected cohorts, in Japan and Mexico, this association does not hold in two large C-clade-infected African cohorts. We tested the hypothesis that clade-specific differences in HLA associations with disease outcomes may be related to distinct targeting of critical CD8(+) T-cell epitopes. We observed that only one epitope was significantly targeted differentially, namely, the Gag-specific epitope NPPIPVGDIY (NY10, Gag positions 253 to 262) (P = 2 × 10(-5)). In common with two other HLA-B*3501-restricted epitopes, in Gag and Nef, that were not targeted differentially, a response toward NY10 was associated with a significantly lower viral set point. Nonimmunogenicity of NY10 in B-clade-infected subjects derives from the Gag-D260E polymorphism present in ?90% of B-clade sequences, which critically reduces recognition of the Gag NY10 epitope. These data suggest that in spite of any inherent HLA-linked T-cell receptor repertoire differences that may exist, maximizing the breadth of the Gag-specific CD8(+) T-cell response, by the addition of even a single epitope, may be of overriding importance in achieving immune control of HIV infection. This distinction is of direct relevance to development of vaccines designed to optimize the anti-HIV CD8(+) T-cell response in all individuals, irrespective of HLA type.
Genetic variation within the HLA-B locus has the strongest impact on HIV disease progression of any polymorphisms within the human genome. However, identifying the exact mechanism involved is complicated by several factors. HLA-Bw4 alleles provide ligands for NK cells and for CD8 T cells, and strong linkage disequilibrium between HLA class I alleles complicates the discrimination of individual HLA allelic effects from those of other HLA and non-HLA alleles on the same haplotype. Here, we exploit an experiment of nature involving two recently diverged HLA alleles, HLA-B*42:01 and HLA-B*42:02, which differ by only a single amino acid. Crucially, they occur primarily on identical HLA class I haplotypes and, as Bw6 alleles, do not act as NK cell ligands and are therefore largely unconfounded by other genetic factors. We show that in an outbred cohort (n = 2,093) of HIV C-clade-infected individuals, a single amino acid change at position 9 of the HLA-B molecule critically affects peptide binding and significantly alters the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes targeted, measured directly ex vivo by gamma interferon (IFN-?) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay (P = 2 × 10(-10)) and functionally through CTL escape mutation (P = 2 × 10(-8)). HLA-B*42:01, which presents multiple Gag epitopes, is associated with a 0.52 log(10) lower viral-load set point than HLA-B*42:02 (P = 0.02), which presents no p24 Gag epitopes. The magnitude of this effect from a single amino acid difference in the HLA-A*30:01/B*42/Cw*17:01 haplotype is equivalent to 75% of that of HLA-B*57:03, the most protective HLA class I allele in this population. This naturally controlled experiment represents perhaps the clearest demonstration of the direct impact of a particular HIV-specific CTL on disease control.
The high HIV-1 prevalence, up to 4.6% in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, makes it a relevant location for testing of therapeutic vaccines. With the aim of performing a clinical study in Guinea-Bissau, after first testing the vaccine for safety in Denmark, Europe, we here describe the design of a universal epitope peptide-based T cell vaccine with relevance for any geographic locations. The two major obstacles when designing such a vaccine are the high diversities of the HIV-1 genome and of the human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I. We selected 15 CD8-restricted epitopes predicted from conserved regions of HIV-1 that were subdominant (i.e., infrequently targeted) within natural infections. Moreover, the epitopes were predicted to be restricted to at least one of the five common HLA supertypes (HLA-A01, A02, A03, B07, and B44). Here, we validated the resulting peptide-specific, HLA-restricted T cell specificities using peptide-MHC class I tetramer labeling of CD8(+) T cells from HIV-1-infected individuals. The selected vaccine epitopes are infrequently targeted in HIV-1-infected individuals from both locations. Moreover, we HLA-typed HIV-1-infected individuals and demonstrated that the selected vaccine epitopes, when targeted, are restricted to the five most common HLA supertypes at both locations. Thus, the HLA supertype-directed approach achieved HLA coverage of 95% and 100% of the examined cohorts in Guinea-Bissau and Denmark, respectively. In conclusion, the selected vaccine epitopes match the host populations and HIV-1 strains of these two distant geographic regions, justifying clinical testing in both locations.
Efficient presentation of peptide-MHC class I (pMHC-I) complexes to immune T cells should benefit from a stable peptide-MHC-I interaction. However, it has been difficult to distinguish stability from other requirements for MHC-I binding, for example, affinity. We have recently established a high-throughput assay for pMHC-I stability. Here, we have generated a large database containing stability measurements of pMHC-I complexes, and re-examined a previously reported unbiased analysis of the relative contributions of antigen processing and presentation in defining cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) immunogenicity [Assarsson et al., J. Immunol. 2007. 178: 7890-7901]. Using an affinity-balanced approach, we demonstrated that immunogenic peptides tend to be more stably bound to MHC-I molecules compared with nonimmunogenic peptides. We also developed a bioinformatics method to predict pMHC-I stability, which suggested that 30% of the nonimmunogenic binders hitherto classified as "holes in the T-cell repertoire" can be explained as being unstably bound to MHC-I. Finally, we suggest that nonoptimal anchor residues in position 2 of the peptide are particularly prone to cause unstable interactions with MHC-I. We conclude that the availability of accurate predictors of pMHC-I stability might be helpful in the elucidation of MHC-I restricted antigen presentation, and might be instrumental in future search strategies for MHC-I epitopes.
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