Previous studies in type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the nonobese diabetic mouse demonstrated that a crucial insulin epitope (B:9-23) is presented to diabetogenic CD4 T cells by IA(g7) in a weakly bound register. The importance of antigenic peptides with low-affinity HLA binding in human autoimmune disease remains less clear. The objective of this study was to investigate T-cell responses to a low-affinity self-epitope in subjects with T1D. HLA-DQ8 tetramers loaded with a modified insulin peptide designed to improve binding the low-affinity register were used to visualize T-cell responses following in vitro stimulation. Positive responses were only detectable in T1D patients. Because the immunogenic register of B:9-23 presented by DQ8 has not been conclusively demonstrated, T-cell assays using substituted peptides and DQ8 constructs engineered to express and present B:9-23 in fixed binding registers were used to determine the immunogenic register of this peptide. Tetramer-positive T-cell clones isolated from T1D subjects that responded to stimulation by B:11-23 peptide and denatured insulin protein were conclusively shown to recognize B:11-23 bound to HLA-DQ8 in the low-affinity register 3. These T cells also responded to homologous peptides derived from microbial antigens, suggesting that their initial priming could occur via molecular mimicry. These results are in accord with prior observations from the nonobese diabetic mouse model, suggesting a mechanism shared by mouse and man through which T cells that recognize a weakly bound peptide can circumvent tolerance mechanisms and play a role in the initiation of autoimmune diseases, such as T1D.
Posttranslational modification (PTM) of self-proteins has been shown to elicit clinically relevant immune responses in rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease. Accumulating evidence suggests that recognition of modified self-proteins may also be important in type 1 diabetes. Our objective was to identify posttranslationally modified GAD65 peptides, which are recognized by subjects with type 1 diabetes, and to assess their disease relevance. We show that citrullination and transglutamination of peptides can enhance their binding to DRB1*04:01, a diabetes-susceptible HLA allele. These and corresponding modifications to amino acids at T-cell contact positions modulated the recognition of multiple GAD65 peptides by self-reactive T cells. Using class II tetramers, we verified that memory T cells specific for these modified epitopes were detectable directly ex vivo in the peripheral blood of subjects with type 1 diabetes at significantly higher frequencies than healthy controls. Furthermore, T cells that recognize these modified epitopes were either less responsive or nonresponsive to their unmodified counterparts. Our findings suggest that PTM contributes to the progression of autoimmune diabetes by eliciting T-cell responses to new epitope specificities that are present primarily in the periphery, thereby circumventing tolerance mechanisms.
Genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) reactivation is thought to be anatomically and temporally localized, coincident with limited ganglionic infection. Short, subclinical shedding episodes are the most common form of HSV-2 reactivation, with host clearance mechanisms leading to rapid containment. The anatomic distribution of shedding episodes has not been characterized. To precisely define patterns of anatomic reactivation, we divided the genital tract into a 22-region grid and obtained daily swabs for 20 days from each region in 28 immunocompetent, HSV-2-seropositive persons. HSV was detected via PCR, and sites of asymptomatic HSV shedding were subjected to a biopsy procedure within 24 h. CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells were quantified by immunofluorescence, and HSV-specific CD4(+) T cells were identified by intracellular cytokine cytometry. HSV was detected in 868 (7%) of 11,603 genital swabs at a median of 12 sites per person (range, 0 to 22). Bilateral HSV detection occurred on 83 (67%) days with shedding, and the median quantity of virus detected/day was associated with the number of sites positive (P < 0.001). In biopsy specimens of asymptomatic shedding sites, we found increased numbers of CD8(+) T cells compared to control tissue (27 versus 13 cells/mm(2), P = 0.03) and identified HSV-specific CD4(+) T cells. HSV reactivations emanate from widely separated anatomic regions of the genital tract and are associated with a localized cellular infiltrate that was demonstrated to be HSV specific in 3 cases. These data provide evidence that asymptomatic HSV-2 shedding contributes to chronic inflammation throughout the genital tract.
The responses of allergen-specific CD4(+) T cells of allergic and healthy individuals are still incompletely understood. Our objective was to investigate the functional and phenotypic properties of CD4(+) T cells of horse-allergic and healthy subjects specific to the immunodominant epitope region of the major horse allergen Equ c 1. Specific T-cell lines (TCLs) and clones were generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells with Equ c 1(143-160), the peptide containing the immunodominant epitope region of Equ c 1. The frequency, proliferative response, cytokine production and HLA restriction of the cells were examined. The frequency of Equ c 1-specific CD4(+) T cells was low (approximately 1 per 10(6) CD4(+) T cells) in both allergic and non-allergic subjects. The cells of allergic subjects had a stronger proliferative capacity than those of non-allergic subjects, and they predominantly emerged from the memory T-cell pool and expressed the T helper type 2 cytokine profile, whereas the cells of non-allergic subjects emerged from the naive T-cell pool and produced low levels of interferon-? and interleukin-10. T-cell response to Equ c 1(143-160) was restricted by several common HLA class II molecules from both DQ and DR loci. As the phenotypic and functional properties of Equ c 1-specific CD4(+) T cells differ between allergic and non-allergic subjects, allergen-specific T cells appear to be tightly implicated in the development of diseased or healthy outcome. Restriction of the specific CD4(+) T-cell response by multiple HLA alleles suggests that Equ c 1(143-160) is a promising candidate for peptide-based immunotherapy.
Susceptibility to type 1 diabetes (T1D) is strongly associated with MHC class II molecules, particularly HLA-DQ8 (DQ8: DQA1*03:01/DQB1*03:02). Monitoring T1D-specific T cell responses to DQ8-restricted epitopes may be key to understanding the immunopathology of the disease. In this study, we examined DQ8-restricted T cell responses to glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) using DQ8 tetramers. We demonstrated that GAD65121-140 and GAD65250-266 elicited responses from DQ8+ subjects. Circulating CD4+ T cells specific for these epitopes were detected significantly more often in T1D patients than in healthy individuals after in vitro expansion. T cell clones specific for GAD65121-140 and GAD65250-266 carried a Th1-dominant phenotype, with some of the GAD65121-140-specific T cell clones producing IL-17. GAD65250-266-specific CD4+ T cells could also be detected by direct ex vivo staining. Analysis of unmanipulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) revealed that GAD65250-266-specific T cells could be found in both healthy and diabetic individuals but the frequencies of specific T cells were higher in subjects with type 1 diabetes. Taken together, our results suggest a proinflammatory role for T cells specific for DQ8-restricted GAD65121-140 and GAD65250-266 epitopes and implicate their possible contribution to the progression of T1D.
Cancer patients frequently exhibit a deficiency in Type-1 (but not Type-2 or regulatory) CD4(+) T cell responses against tumor-associated antigens (TAA), which may limit protection against disease progression or responsiveness to immunotherapy in these individuals. Since such deficiency was acutely evident in patients with active disease (AD), where chronic stimulation of anti-tumor CD4(+) T cells would be expected and activation-induced cell death may be prevalent, we employed MHC Class II-peptide tetramers to characterize the frequency and apoptotic status of TAA- vs. influenza (FluM1) virus-specific CD4(+) T cells in the peripheral blood of HLA-DR*0401(+) patients with melanoma or renal cell carcinoma. We observed that Flu-specific CD4(+) T cells ranged from 0.17 to 3.89%, while up to approximately 1% of CD4(+) T cells reacted against individual TAA epitopes derived from the EphA2 or MAGE-6 proteins. The frequencies of EphA2 and MAGE-6-specific CD4(+) T cells in patients were significantly correlated with AD and gender of the patient (i.e., females?>?males), while frequencies of Flu-specific CD4(+) T cells were distributed within a normal range in all patients. Notably, patient CD4(+) T cells reactive with MHC class II-TAA (but not MHC class II-Flu) tetramers were significantly enriched for a pro-apoptotic (Annexin-V(+)) phenotype, particularly amongst the Th1 (T-bet(+)) subset. These results suggest that the preferential sensitivity of TAA (but not viral)-specific CD4(+) Th1 cells to apoptosis in melanoma patients with AD will need to be overcome for optimal clinical benefit of immunotherapeutic approaches to be realized.
T-cell targeted peptide epitope tolerogens from grass pollen allergens may be useful in treating seasonal allergic rhinitis, but there is urgent need for optimisation of approaches from improved understanding of mechanism.
Yellow fever virus (YFV) can induce acute, life-threatening disease that is a significant health burden in areas where yellow fever is endemic, but it is preventable through vaccination. The live attenuated 17D YFV strain induces responses characterized by neutralizing antibodies and strong T cell responses. This vaccine provides an excellent model for studying human immunity. While several studies have characterized YFV-specific antibody and CD8(+) T cell responses, less is known about YFV-specific CD4(+) T cells. Here we characterize the epitope specificity, functional attributes, and dynamics of YFV-specific T cell responses in vaccinated subjects by investigating peripheral blood mononuclear cells by using HLA-DR tetramers. A total of 112 epitopes restricted by seven common HLA-DRB1 alleles were identified. Epitopes were present within all YFV proteins, but the capsid, envelope, NS2a, and NS3 proteins had the highest epitope density. Antibody blocking demonstrated that the majority of YFV-specific T cells were HLA-DR restricted. Therefore, CD4(+) T cell responses could be effectively characterized with HLA-DR tetramers. Ex vivo tetramer analysis revealed that YFV-specific T cells persisted at frequencies ranging from 0 to 100 cells per million that are detectable years after vaccination. Longitudinal analysis indicated that YFV-specific CD4(+) T cells reached peak frequencies, often exceeding 250 cells per million, approximately 2 weeks after vaccination. As frequencies subsequently declined, YFV-specific cells regained CCR7 expression, indicating a shift from effector to central memory. Cells were typically CXCR3 positive, suggesting Th1 polarization, and produced gamma interferon and other cytokines after reactivation in vitro. Therefore, YFV elicits robust early effector CD4(+) T cell responses that contract, forming a detectable memory population.
Virus-specific CD4(+) T cells are key orchestrators of host responses to viral infection yet, compared with their CD8(+) T cell counterparts, remain poorly characterized at the single cell level. Here we use nine MHC II-epitope peptide tetramers to visualize human CD4(+) T cell responses to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the causative agent of infectious mononucleosis (IM), a disease associated with large virus-specific CD8(+) T cell responses. We find that, while not approaching virus-specific CD8(+) T cell expansions in magnitude, activated CD4(+) T cells specific for epitopes in the latent antigen EBNA2 and four lytic cycle antigens are detected at high frequencies in acute IM blood. They then fall rapidly to values typical of life-long virus carriage where most tetramer-positive cells display conventional memory markers but some, unexpectedly, revert to a naive-like phenotype. In contrast CD4(+) T cell responses to EBNA1 epitopes are greatly delayed in IM patients, in line with the well-known but hitherto unexplained delay in EBNA1 IgG antibody responses. We present evidence from an in vitro system that may explain these unusual kinetics. Unlike other EBNAs and lytic cycle proteins, EBNA1 is not naturally released from EBV-infected cells as a source of antigen for CD4(+) T cell priming.
Type 1 diabetes is associated with T-cell responses to ?-cell antigens such as GAD65. Single T-cell epitopes have been investigated for immune monitoring with some success, but multiple epitopes may be required to fully characterize responses in all subjects. We used a systematic approach to examine the diversity of the GAD65-specific T-cell repertoire in subjects with DRB1*04:01 haplotypes. Using class II tetramers, we observed responses to 15 GAD65 epitopes, including five novel epitopes. The majority were confirmed to be processed and presented. Upon stimulation with peptides, GAD-specific responses were equally broad in subjects with diabetes and healthy controls in the presence or absence of CD25(+) T cells, suggesting that a susceptible HLA is sufficient to generate a potentially autoreactive repertoire. Without depleting CD25(+) cells, GAD(113-132) and GAD(265-284) responses were significantly stronger in subjects with diabetes. Although nearly every individual responded to at least one GAD65 epitope, most were seen in less than half of the subjects tested, suggesting that multiple epitopes are recommended for immune monitoring.
DRB1*08:01 (DR0801) and DRB1*11:01 (DR1101) are highly homologous alleles that have opposing effects on susceptibility to primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). DR0801 confers risk and shares a key feature with other HLA class II alleles that predispose to autoimmunity: a nonaspartic acid at beta57. DR1101 is associated with protection from PBC, and its sequence includes an aspartic acid at beta57. To elucidate a mechanism for the opposing effects of these HLA alleles on PBC susceptibility, we compared the features of epitopes presented by DR0801 and DR1101. First, we identified DR0801- and DR1101-restricted epitopes within multiple viral Ags, observing both shared and distinct epitopes. Because DR0801 is not well characterized, we deduced its motif by measuring binding affinities for a library of peptides, confirming its key features through structural modeling. DR0801 was distinct from DR1101 in its ability to accommodate charged residues within all but one of its binding pockets. In particular, DR0801 strongly preferred acidic residues in pocket 9. These findings were used to identify potentially antigenic sequences within PDC-E2 (an important hepatic autoantigen) that contain a DR0801 motif. Four peptides bound to DR0801 with reasonable affinity, but only one of these bound to DR1101. Three peptides, PDC-E2145-159, PDC-E2(249-263), and PDC-E2(629-643), elicited high-affinity T cell responses in DR0801 subjects, implicating these as likely autoreactive specificities. Therefore, the unique molecular features of DR0801 may lead to the selection of a distinct T cell repertoire that contributes to breakdown of self-tolerance in primary biliary cirrhosis, whereas those of DR1101 promote tolerance.
Influenza A/California/4/2009 (H1N1/09) is a recently emerged influenza virus capable of causing serious illness or death in otherwise healthy individuals. Serious outcomes were most common in young adults and children, suggesting that pre-existing heterologous immunity may influence the severity of infection. Using tetramers, we identified CD4(+) T-cell epitopes within H1N1/09 hemagglutinin (HA) that share extensive homology with seasonal influenza and epitopes that are unique to H1N1/09 HA. Ex vivo tetramer staining revealed that T cells specific for conserved epitopes were detectable within the memory compartment, whereas T cells specific for unique epitopes were naive and infrequent prior to infection or vaccination. Following infection, the frequencies of T cells specific for unique epitopes were 11-fold higher, reaching levels comparable to those of T cells specific for immunodominant epitopes. In contrast, the frequencies of T cells specific for conserved epitopes were only 2- to 3-fold higher following infection. In general, H1HA-reactive T cells exhibited a memory phenotype, expressed CXCR3 and secreted IFN-?, indicating a predominantly Th1-polarized response. A similar Th1 response was seen in vaccinated subjects, but the expansion of T cells specific for HA epitopes was comparatively modest after vaccination. Our findings indicate that CD4(+) T cells recognize both strain-specific and conserved epitopes within the influenza HA protein and suggest that naive T cells specific for HA epitopes undergo significant expansion, whereas memory T cells specific for the conserved epitopes undergo more restrained expansion.
An understanding of the immunological footprint of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) CD4 T cell recognition is still incomplete. Here we report that human Th1 cells specific for MTB are largely contained in a CXCR3(+)CCR6(+) memory subset and highly focused on three broadly immunodominant antigenic islands, all related to bacterial secretion systems. Our results refute the notion that secreted antigens act as a decoy, since both secreted proteins and proteins comprising the secretion system itself are targeted by a fully functional T cell response. In addition, several novel T cell antigens were identified which can be of potential diagnostic use, or as vaccine antigens. These results underline the power of a truly unbiased, genome-wide, analysis of CD4 MTB recognition based on the combined use of epitope predictions, high throughput ELISPOT, and T cell libraries using PBMCs from individuals latently infected with MTB.
This study characterized the unique peptide-binding characteristics of HLA-DRB1*12:01 (DR1201), an allele studied in the context of various autoimmune diseases, using a peptide competition assay and structural modeling. After defining Influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 Matrix Protein M1 (H1MP) 40-54 as a DR1201 restricted epitope, the critical anchor residues within this sequence were confirmed by measuring the relative binding of peptides with non-conservative substitutions in competition with biotin labeled H1MP(40-54) peptide. Based on this information, a set of peptides was designed with single amino acid substitutions at these anchor positions. The overall peptide binding preferences for the DR1201 allele were deduced by incubating these peptides in competition with the reference H1MP(40-54) to determine the relative binding affinities of each to recombinant DR1201 protein. As expected, pocket 1 preferred methionine and aliphatic residues, and tolerated phenylalanine. Pocket 4 was mostly composed of hydrophobic residues, thereby preferentially accommodating aliphatic residues, but could also weakly accommodate lysine due to its slightly acidic environment. Pocket 6 accepted a wide range of amino acids because of the diverse residues that comprise this pocket. Pocket 9 accepted aliphatic and negatively charged amino acids, but showed a remarkable preference for aromatic residues due to the conformation of the pocket, which lacks the typical salt bridge between ?57Asp and ?76Arg. These binding characteristics contrast with the closely related DR1104 allele, distinguishing DR1201 among the alleles of the HLA-DR5 group. These empirical results were used to develop an algorithm to predict peptide binding to DR1201. This algorithm was used to verify T cell epitopes within novel antigenic peptides identified by tetramer staining and within peptides from published reports that contain putative DR1201 epitopes.
Although cellular immunity to acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection has been well characterized in experimental studies in mice, the T cell response to this virus in humans is incompletely understood. Thus, we analyzed the breadths, magnitudes, and differentiation phenotypes of memory LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells in three human donors displaying a variety of disease outcomes after accidental needle stick injury or exposure to LCMV. Although only a small cohort of donors was analyzed at a single time point postinfection, several interesting observations were made. First, we were able to detect LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses directly ex vivo at 4 to 8 years after exposure, demonstrating the longevity of T cell memory in humans. Second, unlike in murine models of LCMV infection, we found that the breadths of memory CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses were not significantly different from one another. Third, it seemed that the overall CD8(+) T cell response was augmented with increasing severity of disease, while the LCMV-specific CD4(+) T cell response magnitude was highly variable between the three different donors. Next, we found that LCMV-specific CD8(+) T cells in the three donors analyzed seemed to undergo an effector memory differentiation program distinct from that of CD4(+) T cells. Finally, the levels of expression of memory, costimulatory, and inhibitory receptors on CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell subsets, in some instances, correlated with disease outcome. These data demonstrate for the first time LCMV-specific CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells in infected humans and begin to provide new insights into memory T cell responses following an acute virus infection.
Noninfectious uveitis is a leading cause of blindness and thought to involve autoimmune T cell responses to retinal proteins (e.g., retinal arrestin [soluble-Ag (S-Ag)]). There are no known biomarkers for the disease. Susceptibility is associated with HLA, but little is known about susceptible class II alleles or the potentially pathogenic epitopes that they present. Using a humanized HLA-transgenic mouse model of S-Ag-induced autoimmune uveitis, we identified several susceptible and resistant alleles of HLA-DR and -DQ genes and defined pathogenic epitopes of S-Ag presented by the susceptible alleles. The sequences of these epitopes overlap with some previously identified peptides of S-Ag ("M" and "N"), known to elicit memory responses in lymphocytes of uveitis patients. HLA-DR-restricted, S-Ag-specific CD4(+) T cells could be detected in blood and draining lymph nodes of uveitic mice with HLA class II tetramers and transferred the disease to healthy mice. Importantly, tetramer-positive cells were detected in peripheral blood of a uveitis patient. To our knowledge, these findings provide the first tangible evidence that an autoimmune response to retina is causally involved in pathogenesis of human uveitis, demonstrating the feasibility of identifying and isolating retinal Ag-specific T cells from uveitis patients and may facilitate their development as biomarkers for the disease.
The upper respiratory tract mucosa is the location for commensal Streptococcus (S.) pneumoniae colonization and therefore represents a major site of contact between host and bacteria. The CD4(+) T cell response to pneumococcus is increasingly recognised as an important mediator of immunity that protects against invasive disease, with data suggesting a critical role for Th17 cells in mucosal clearance. By assessing CD4 T cell proliferative responses we demonstrate age-related sequestration of Th1 and Th17 CD4(+) T cells reactive to pneumococcal protein antigens within mucosal lymphoid tissue. CD25(hi) T cell depletion and utilisation of pneumococcal specific MHCII tetramers revealed the presence of antigen specific Tregs that utilised CTLA-4 and PDL-1 surface molecules to suppress these responses. The balance between mucosal effector and regulatory CD4(+) T cell immunity is likely to be critical to pneumococcal commensalism and the prevention of unwanted pathology associated with carriage. However, if dysregulated, such responses may render the host more susceptible to invasive pneumococcal infection and adversely affect the successful implementation of both polysaccharide-conjugate and novel protein-based pneumococcal vaccines.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by infiltration of pathogenic immune cells in the CNS resulting in destruction of the myelin sheath and surrounding axons. We and others have previously measured the frequency of human myelin-reactive T cells in peripheral blood. Using T cell cloning techniques, a modest increase in the frequency of myelin-reactive T cells in patients as compared with control subjects was observed. In this study, we investigated whether myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-specific T cells could be detected and their frequency was measured using DRB1*0401/MOG(97-109(107E-S)) tetramers in MS subjects and healthy controls expressing HLA class II DRB1*0401. We defined the optimal culture conditions for expansion of MOG-reactive T cells upon MOG peptide stimulation of PMBCs. MOG(97-109)-reactive CD4(+) T cells, isolated with DRB1*0401/MOG(97-109) tetramers, and after a short-term culture of PMBCs with MOG(97-109) peptides, were detected more frequently from patients with MS as compared with healthy controls. T cell clones from single cell cloning of DRB1*0401/MOG(97-109(107E-S)) tetramer(+) cells confirmed that these T cell clones were responsive to both the native and the substituted MOG peptide. These data indicate that autoantigen-specific T cells can be detected and enumerated from the blood of subjects using class II tetramers, and the frequency of MOG(97-109)-reactive T cells is greater in patients with MS as compared with healthy controls.
Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is caused by human papillomavirus type 6 (HPV-6) or HPV-11. Specific HLA-DR haplotypes DRB1*01:02 and DRB1*03:01 are associated with the development of RRP, disease severity, and Th2-like responses to HPV early proteins. Th1-like responses to HPV proteins have been shown to be protective in animal models. Therefore, we investigated the hypothesis that RRP patients have dysfunctional Th1-like, HPV-specific T cell responses. Using MHC class II tetramers, we identified immunogenic peptides within HPV-11 early proteins. Two distinct peptides (E6(113-132) and E2(1-20)) contained DRB1*01:02- or DRB1*03:01-restricted epitopes, respectively. An additional peptide (E2(281-300)) contained an epitope presented by both alleles. Peptide binding, tetramer, and proliferation assays identified minimal epitopes within these peptides. These epitopes elicited E2/E6-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in RRP patients and healthy control subjects, allowing the isolation of HPV-specific T cell lines using tetramers. The cytokine profiles and STAT signaling of these tetramer-positive T cells were measured to compare the polarization and responsiveness of HPV-specific T cells from patients with RRP and healthy subjects. HPV-specific IFN-? secretion was substantially lower in T cells from RRP patients. HPV-specific IL-13 secretion was seen at modest levels in T cells from RRP patients and was absent in T cells from healthy control subjects. HPV-specific T cells from RRP patients exhibited reduced STAT-5 phosphorylation and reduced IL-2 secretion, suggesting anergy. Levels of STAT-5 phosphorylation and IFN-? secretion could be improved through addition of IL-2 to HPV-specific T cell lines from RRP patients. Therapeutic vaccination or interventions aimed at restoring Th1-like cytokine responses to HPV proteins and reversing anergy could improve clinical outcomes for RRP patients.
Tonsils are strategically located in the gateway of both alimentary and respiratory tracts representing the first contact point of food and aeroallergens with the immune system. Tonsillectomy removes only the palatine tonsils and sometimes adenoids. Lingual tonsil is anatomically big and remains lifelong intact.
The main obstacle to elucidating the role of CD4(+) T cells in allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) has been the absence of an adequately sensitive approach to directly characterize rare allergen-specific T cells without introducing substantial phenotypic modifications by means of in vitro amplification.
HLA-DR0401, 0403 and 0405 are associated with variable T1D susceptibilities when linked with a common HLA-DQ8 (DQA1?0301/DQB1?0302). It is unknown how the modest differences within the peptide binding regions of DR4 subtypes lead to distinct autoimmune risks. Since all Class II HLA molecules share the same intracellular compartments during biosynthesis, it is possible that DQ and DR compete with one another to bind and present antigenic peptides. As such, it is reasonable to hypothesize that a strong DR4 self-peptide binder down-modulates DQ8 epitope presentation more than a weak one. In this study, we first examined the binding of the peptides derived from two putative beta-cell autoantigens - GAD65 and insulin. Protective DR0403 bound similar number of self-peptides as susceptible DR0401 while highly susceptible DR0405 bound substantially less self-peptides than rest two molecules. Kinetic assays were used to further compare the stability of peptide:DR complexes formed between DR0401, 0403 and selected GAD65 peptides, which also bound DQ8. Two peptides with naturally processed DQ8 epitopes bound protective DR0403 with longer half-life and lower dissociation rate than susceptible DR0401, confirming DR0403 as a better peptide competitor than DR0401. The distinguishing peptide binding features of DR0401, DR0403, and DR0405 highlighted in this study help to explain the hierarchy of genetic associations between T1D and these DR4 subtypes. The enhanced peptide competition of DR0403 leads to a down-modulation of DQ8 epitope presentation, as compared to weak competitors such as DR0401 and DR0405, and therefore contributes to disease protection.
Effector CD4 and CD8 T cell immune responses to cytochrome P450IID6 (CYP2D6), the autoantigen of autoimmune hepatitis type 2 (AIH-2), are permitted by a numerical and functional impairment of CD4(pos) CD25(high) regulatory T cells (T-regs). We aimed to investigate whether T-regs specific for CYP2D6 immunodominant regions and restricted by the appropriate human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR molecule can be generated in patients with AIH-2 and can control CD4 and CD8 T cell effectors targeting identical or overlapping CYP2D6 regions. CYP2D6-specific regulatory T cells (CYP2D6 T-regs) were obtained from peptide-pulsed monocyte-depleted peripheral blood mononuclear cells of 17 patients with AIH-2, who were positive for the predisposing HLA-DR7 and/or HLA-DR3 alleles. Their antigen specificity was assessed by cytofluorimetry using HLA class II tetramers and their cytokine profile by intracellular staining. T-reg ability to suppress was ascertained by measuring reduction of CD4(pos) CD25(neg) cell proliferation/effector cytokine secretion and of CD8 T cell cytotoxicity. The most efficient suppression of effector T cell proliferation, inflammatory cytokine release, and cytotoxicity was obtained by coculturing T-regs with CYP2D6-peptide-loaded semimature dendritic cells (smDCs), and smDC-CYP2D6 T-regs also expressed high levels of FOXP3 (forkhead box P3). Possession of the appropriate HLA-DR molecule and recognition of the CYP2D6 autoantigenic sequence were critical to the synergistic smDC-CYP2D6 T-reg immunoregulatory functions, and lack of either element led to poor control of responder cell proliferation and cytokine secretion. Moreover, interferon-? neutralization significantly boosted the suppressive ability of CYP2D6 T-regs.
Although allergen-specific CD4(+) T cells are detectable in the peripheral blood of both individuals with or without allergy, their frequencies and phenotypes within the memory as well as naïve repertoires are incompletely known. Here, we analyzed the DRB1*0401-restricted responses of peripheral blood-derived memory (CD4(+)CD45RO(+)) and naïve (CD4(+)CD45RA(+)) T cells from subjects with or without allergy against the immunodominant epitope of the major cow dander allergen Bos d 2 by HLA class II tetramers in vitro. The frequency of Bos d 2(127-142)-specific memory T cells in the peripheral blood-derived cultures appeared to be higher in subjects with allergy than those without, whereas naïve Bos d 2(127-142)-specific T cells were detectable in the cultures of both groups at nearly the same frequency. Surprisingly, the TCR avidity of Bos d 2(127-142)-specific T cells of naïve origin, as assessed by the intensity of HLA class II tetramer staining, was found to be higher in individuals with allergy. Upon restimulation, long-term Bos d 2(127-142)-specific T-cell lines generated from both memory and naïve T-cell pools from individuals with allergy proliferated more strongly, produced more IL-4 and IL-10, and expressed higher levels of CD25 but lower levels of CXCR3 than the T-cell lines from individuals without allergy, demonstrating differences also at the functional level. Collectively, our current results suggest that not only the memory but also the naïve allergen-specific T-cell repertoires differ between individuals with or without allergy.
HLA-DRB1*1001 (DR1001) is a shared epitope allele associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The present study was undertaken to assess the capacity of DR1001 to accommodate citrulline in its binding pockets and to identify citrullinated T cell epitopes derived from joint-associated proteins.
Peptide:MHC cellular microarrays have been proposed to simultaneously characterize multiple Ag-specific populations of T cells. The practice of studying immune responses to complicated pathogens with this tool demands extensive knowledge of T cell epitopes and the availability of peptide:MHC complexes for array fabrication as well as a specialized data analysis approach for result interpretation.
Hsp70 plays several roles in the adaptive immune response. Based on the ability to interact with diverse peptides, extracellular Hsp70:peptide complexes exert profound effects both in autoimmunity and in tumor rejection by evoking potent T cell responses to the chaperoned peptide. The interaction with receptors on APC represents the basis for the immunological functions of Hsp70 and a critical point where the immune response can be regulated. Various surface proteins (e.g. CD91, scavenger receptors (SR)) have been implicated in binding of Hsp70. In this study, antigenic peptides from tetanus toxin and influenza hemagglutinin complexed to human stress-inducible Hsp70 were found to enhance the proliferation and cytokine production of human antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells. This was demonstrated in proliferation experiments using human monocytes as APC. Proliferated antigen-specific cells were detected combining HLA-DRB1*0401 or HLA-DRB1*1101 tetramer and CFSE staining. Treating monocytes with CD91 siRNA diminished these effects. Additional blocking of SR by the SR ligand fucoidan completely abolished enhanced proliferation and production of Th1 and Th2 cytokines. Taken together, our data indicate that in the human system, CD91 and members of the SR family efficiently direct Hsp70:peptide complexes into the MHC class II presentation pathway and thus enhance antigen-specific CD4(+) T cell responses.
HIV controllers are rare individuals who spontaneously control HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral treatment. Emerging evidence indicates that HIV control is mediated through very active cellular immune responses, though how such responses can persist over time without immune exhaustion is not yet understood. To investigate the nature of memory CD4+ T cells responsible for long-term anti-HIV responses, we characterized the growth kinetics, Vbeta repertoire, and avidity for antigen of patient-derived primary CD4+ T cell lines. Specific cell lines were obtained at a high rate for both HIV controllers (16/17) and efficiently treated patients (19/20) in response to the immunodominant Gag293 peptide. However, lines from controllers showed faster growth kinetics than those of treated patients. After normalizing for growth rates, IFN-gamma responses directed against the immunodominant Gag293 peptide showed higher functional avidity in HIV controllers, indicating differentiation into highly efficient effector cells. In contrast, responses to Gag161, Gag263, or CMV peptides did not differ between groups. Gag293-specific CD4+ T cells were characterized by a diverse Vbeta repertoire, suggesting that multiple clones contributed to the high avidity CD4+ T cell population in controllers. The high functional avidity of the Gag293-specific response could be explained by a high avidity interaction between the TCR and the peptide-MHC complex, as demonstrated by MHC class II tetramer binding. Thus, HIV controllers harbor a pool of memory CD4+ T cells with the intrinsic ability to recognize minimal amounts of Gag antigen, which may explain how they maintain an active antiviral response in the face of very low viremia.
Very limited evidence has been reported to show human adaptive immune responses to the 2009 pandemic H1N1 swine-origin influenza A virus (S-OIV). We studied 17 S-OIV peptides homologous to immunodominant CD4 T epitopes from hemagglutinin (HA), neuraminidase (NA), nuclear protein (NP), M1 matrix protein (MP), and PB1 of a seasonal H1N1 strain. We concluded that 15 of these 17 S-OIV peptides would induce responses of seasonal influenza virus-specific T cells. Of these, seven S-OIV sequences were identical to seasonal influenza virus sequences, while eight had at least one amino acid that was not conserved. T cells recognizing epitopes derived from these S-OIV antigens could be detected ex vivo. Most of these T cells expressed memory markers, although none of the donors had been exposed to S-OIV. Functional analysis revealed that specific amino acid differences in the sequences of these S-OIV peptides would not affect or partially affect memory T-cell responses. These findings suggest that without protective antibody responses, individuals vaccinated against seasonal influenza A may still benefit from preexisting cross-reactive memory CD4 T cells reducing their susceptibility to S-OIV infection.
We have previously shown that vaccination of HLA-A2 metastatic melanoma patients with the analogue Melan-A(26-35(A27L)) peptide emulsified in a mineral oil induces ex vivo detectable specific CD8 T cells. These are further enhanced when a TLR9 agonist is codelivered in the same vaccine formulation. Interestingly, the same peptide can be efficiently recognized by HLA-DQ6-restricted CD4 T cells. We used HLA-DQ6 multimers to assess the specific CD4 T-cell response in both healthy individuals and melanoma patients. We report that the majority of melanoma patients carry high frequencies of naturally circulating HLA-DQ6-restricted Melan-A-specific CD4 T cells, a high proportion of which express FOXP3 and proliferate poorly in response to the cognate peptide. Upon vaccination, the relative frequency of multimer+ CD4 T cells did not change significantly. In contrast, we found a marked shift to FOXP3-negative CD4 T cells, accompanied by robust CD4 T-cell proliferation upon in vitro stimulation with cognate peptide. A concomitant reduction in TCR diversity was also observed. This is the first report on direct ex vivo identification of antigen-specific FOXP3+ T cells by multimer labeling in cancer patients and on the direct assessment of the impact of peptide vaccination on immunoregulatory T cells.
Identification of dominant T cell epitopes within newly emerging and re-emerging infectious organisms is valuable in understanding pathogenic immune responses and potential vaccine designs. However, difficulties in obtaining samples from patients or convalescent subjects have hampered research in this direction. We demonstrated a strategy, tetramer-guided epitope mapping, that specific CD4+ T cell epitopes can be identified by using PBMC from subjects that have not been exposed to the infectious organism. Sixteen HLA-DR0401- and 14 HLA-DR0701-restricted epitopes within spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) were identified. Among these, spike protein residues 159-171, 166-178, 449-461 and 1083-1097 were identified to contain naturally processed immunodominant epitopes based on strong in vitro T cell responses of PBMC (as assayed by tetramer staining) to intact spike protein stimulation. These immunodominant epitopes were confirmed in vivo in HLA-DR0401 transgenic mice by immunizing with spike protein. Furthermore, the epitope-specific T cells from naive donors secreted IFN-gamma and IL-13 upon re-stimulation with corresponding tetramers. Our study demonstrates a strategy to determine potential immunodominant epitopes for emerging infectious pathogens prior to their epidemic circulation.
Peptide binding to class II MHC protein is commonly viewed as a combination of discrete anchor residue preferences for pockets 1, 4, 6/7, and 9. However, previous studies have suggested cooperative effects during the peptide binding process. Investigation of the DRB1*0901 binding motif demonstrated a clear interaction between peptide binding pockets 6 and 9. In agreement with prior studies, pockets 1 and 4 exhibited clear binding preferences. Previously uncharacterized pockets 6 and 7 accommodated a wide variety of residues. However, although it was previously reported that pocket 9 is completely permissive, several substitutions at this position were unable to bind. Structural modeling revealed a probable interaction between pockets 6 and 9 through beta9Lys. Additional binding studies with doubly substituted peptides confirmed that the amino acid bound within pocket 6 profoundly influences the binding preferences for pocket 9 of DRB1*0901, causing complete permissiveness of pocket 9 when a small polar residue is anchored in pocket 6 but accepting relatively few residues when a basic residue is anchored in pocket 6. The beta9Lys residue is unique to DR9 alleles. However, similar studies with doubly substituted peptides confirmed an analogous interaction effect for DRA1/B1*0301, a beta9Glu allele. Accounting for this interaction resulted in improved epitope prediction. These findings provide a structural explanation for observations that an amino acid in one pocket can influence binding elsewhere in the MHC class II peptide binding groove.
The development of neutralizing antibodies (inhibitors) after factor VIII (FVIII) infusions is a serious complication that affects approximately one-quarter of hemophilia A patients who have access to replacement therapy. To investigate the differentiation of naive T cells into FVIII-specific helper T cells that promote B-cell activation and antibody secretion, HLA-DRA-DRB1*0101-restricted T-cell clones that respond to a specific epitope in FVIII were isolated from a mild hemophilia A subject (the proband) 19 weeks and 21 months after his development of a high-titer inhibitor. Clones responding to the same epitope were also isolated from his multiply infused brother, who has not developed a clinically significant inhibitor. The 19-week proband clones were T helper (T(H))17/T(H)1- or T(H)1/T(H)2-polarized, whereas all 8 clones isolated 21 months postinhibitor development were T(H)2-polarized cells. In contrast, all 6 clones from the brother who did not develop an inhibitor were T(H)1-polarized, indicating that tolerance to FVIII can be maintained even with circulating T(H)1-polarized cells that respond vigorously to in vitro FVIII stimulation. This is the first evidence that T(H)17/T(H)1-polarized cells play a role in hemophilic immune responses to FVIII. Furthermore, this is the first report of successful isolation and expansion of antigen-specific human T(H)17/T(H)1 clones using standard culture conditions.
CD4+ T cells play a pivotal role in the viral immunity, and as such identification of unique strain-specific HLA class II restricted epitopes is essential for monitoring cellular strain-specific viral immunity. Using Tetramer-Guided Epitope Mapping technique, we identified HLA-DR0401 restricted HA epitopes that are strain-specific to H5N1 virion. Two immunodominant epitopes H5HA(441-460) and H5HA(57-76) were identified from in vitro stimulated human PBMC. Both epitopes elicit strong cellular immune responses when HLA-DR0401 transgenic mice are immunized with H5N1 subvirion indicating in vivo naturally processed immunodominant epitopes. The H5HA(57-76) epitope is unique for the H5N1 strain but conserved among all H5N1 clades recommended for vaccine development by World Health Organization. The unique H5HA(57-76) response was uncommon in unexposed individuals and only observed in the naïve T cell subset. Thus, H5N1 strain-specific H5HA(57-76) immunogenic epitope represents a unique marker for monitoring the efficacy of vaccination or as a candidate vaccine peptide.
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II tetramers allow the direct visualization of antigen specific CD4+ T cells by flow cytometry. This method relies on the highly specific interaction between peptide loaded MHC and the corresponding T-cell receptor. While the affinity of a single MHC/peptide molecule is low, cross-linking MHC/peptide complexes with streptavidin increases the avidity of the interaction, enabling their use as staining reagents. Because of the relatively low frequencies of CD4+ T cells (approximately 1 in 300,000 for a single specificity) this assay utilizes an in vitro amplification step to increase its threshold of detection. Mononuclear cells are purified from peripheral blood by Ficoll underlay. CD4+ cells are then separated by negative selection using biotinylated antibody cocktail and anti-biotin labeled magnetic beads. Using adherent cells from the CD4- cell fraction as antigen presenting cells, CD4+ T cells are expanded in media by adding an antigenic peptide and IL-2. The expanded cells are stained with the corresponding class II tetramer by incubating at 37 C for one hour and subsequently stained using surface antibodies such as anti-CD4, anti-CD3, and anti-CD25. After labeling, the cells can be directly analyzed by flow cytometry. The tetramer positive cells typically form a distinct population among the expanded CD4+ cells. Tetramer positive cells are usually CD25+ and often CD4 high. Because the level of background tetramer staining can vary, positive staining results should always be compared to the staining of the same cells with an irrelevant tetramer. Multiple variations of this basic assay are possible. Tetramer positive cells may be sorted for further phenotypic analysis, inclusion in ELISPOT or proliferation assays, or other secondary assays. Several groups have also demonstrated co-staining using tetramers and either anti-cytokine or anti-FoxP3 antibodies.
CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) Treg cells require TCR engagement for suppressive function, thus ensuring that suppression occurs only in the presence of specific antigens; however, to date no studies have addressed the function of self-antigen-specific Treg in humans. These studies were designed to determine whether peripheral generation and function of islet antigen-specific adaptive Treg are defective in human subjects with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Islet antigen-specific adaptive Treg were induced in vitro by activation of CD4(+)FOXP3(-) T cells with glutamic acid decarboxylase and islet-specific glucose-6-phosphate catalytic subunit-related protein peptides in the context of T1D-associated HLA-DRbeta alleles. Antigen-specific Treg were characterized using flow cytometry for FOXP3 and class II tetramer and assessed for the ability to inhibit proliferation. These adaptive Treg were then compared with influenza-specific Treg from the same study population. The function of tetramer(+) cells that expressed FOXP3 was similar for both influenza and islet antigens generated from control and T1D subjects. In fact, the potency of suppression correlated with FOXP3 expression, not antigen specificity. Thus, these data suggest that development of functional adaptive Treg can occur in response to islet antigens and activation of islet-specific Treg may potentially be used as a targeted immunotherapy in T1D.
To evaluate the relevance of directing antigen-specific CD4(+) T helper cells as part of effective anticancer immunotherapy, we investigated the immunologic and clinical responses to vaccination with dendritic cells (DC) pulsed with either MHC class I (MHC-I)-restricted epitopes alone or both MHC class I and II (MHC-I/II)-restricted epitopes. We enrolled 33 stage III and IV HLA-A*02:01-positive patients with melanoma in this study, of whom 29 were evaluable for immunologic response. Patients received intranodal vaccinations with cytokine-matured DCs loaded with keyhole limpet hemocyanin and MHC-I alone or MHC-I/II-restricted tumor-associated antigens (TAA) of tyrosinase and gp100, depending on their HLA-DR4 status. In 4 of 15 patients vaccinated with MHC-I/II-loaded DCs and 1 of 14 patients vaccinated with MHC-I-loaded DCs, we detected TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells with maintained IFN-? production in skin test infiltrating lymphocyte (SKIL) cultures and circulating TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells. If TAA-specific CD4(+) T-cell responses were detected in SKIL cultures, it coincided with TAA-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses. In 3 of 13 patients tested, we detected TAA-specific CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(-) T cells with high proliferative capacity and IFN-? production, indicating that these were not regulatory T cells. Vaccination with MHC-I/II-loaded DCs resulted in improved clinical outcome compared with matched control patients treated with dacarbazine (DTIC), median overall survival of 15.0 versus 8.3 months (P = 0.089), and median progression-free survival of 5.0 versus 2.8 months (P = 0.0089). In conclusion, coactivating TAA-specific CD4(+) T-helper cells with DCs pulsed with both MHC class I and II-restricted epitopes augments TAA-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses, contributing to improved clinical responses.
Allergen specific T(H)2 cells are a key component of allergic disease, but their characterization has been hindered by technical limitations and lack of epitope data. Knowledge about the factors that drive the differentiation of naïve T cells into allergy-promoting T(H)2 cells and the influence of allergen specific immunotherapy on the phenotype and function of allergen-specific T cells have also been limited. Recent advances indicate that innate and adaptive immune factors drive the development of diverse subsets of allergen-specific T cells. While allergen-specific T cells are present even in non-allergic subjects, highly differentiated T(H)2 cells are present only in allergic subjects and their disappearance correlates with successful immunotherapy. Therefore, elimination of pathogenic T(H)2 cells is an essential step in tolerance induction.
HIV controllers are rare individuals who spontaneously control HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. To identify parameters of the CD4 response that may contribute to viral control rather than merely reflect a persistently low viremia, we compared the T helper profiles in two groups of patients with more than 10 years of viral suppression: HIV controllers from the Agence Nationale de Recherche sur le SIDA et les Hépatites Virales (ANRS) CO18 cohort (n = 26) and efficiently treated patients (n = 16). Cells specific for immunodominant Gag and cytomegalovirus (CMV) peptides were evaluated for the production of 10 cytokines and cytotoxicity markers and were also directly quantified ex vivo by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II tetramer staining. HIV controller CD4(+) T cells were characterized by a higher frequency of gamma interferon (IFN-?) production, perforin(+)/CD107a(+) expression, and polyfunctionality in response to Gag peptides. While interleukin 4 (IL-4), IL-17, and IL-21 production did not differ between groups, the cells of treated patients produced more IL-10 in response to Gag and CMV peptides, pointing to persistent negative immunoregulation after long-term antiretroviral therapy. Gag293 tetramer-positive cells were detected at a high frequency (0.12%) and correlated positively with IFN-?-producing CD4(+) T cells in the controller group (R = 0.73; P = 0.003). Tetramer-positive cells were fewer in the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) group (0.04%) and did not correlate with IFN-? production, supporting the notion of a persistent immune dysfunction in HIV-specific CD4(+) T cells of treated patients. In conclusion, HIV controllers maintained a population of highly efficient Th1 effectors directed against Gag in spite of a persistently low antigenemia, while patients treated in the long term showed a loss of CD4 effector functions.
Diagnosis of tuberculosis often relies on the ex vivo IFN-? release assays QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube and T-SPOT.TB. However, understanding of the immunological mechanisms underlying their diagnostic use is still incomplete. Accordingly, we investigated T cell responses for the TB Ags included in the these assays and other commonly studied Ags: early secreted antigenic target 6 kDa, culture filtrate protein 10 kDa, Rv2031c, Rv2654c, and Rv1038c. PBMC from latently infected individuals were tested in ex vivo ELISPOT assays with overlapping peptides spanning the entirety of these Ags. We found striking variations in prevalence and magnitude of ex vivo reactivity, with culture filtrate protein 10 kDa being most dominant, followed by early secreted antigenic target 6 kDa and Rv2654c being virtually inactive. Rv2031c and Rv1038c were associated with intermediate patterns of reactivity. Further studies showed that low reactivity was not due to lack of HLA binding peptides, and high reactivity was associated with recognition of a few discrete dominant antigenic regions. Different donors recognized the same core sequence in a given epitope. In some cases, the identified epitopes were restricted by a single specific common HLA molecule (selective restriction), whereas in other cases, promiscuous restriction of the same epitope by multiple HLA molecules was apparent. Definition of the specific restricting HLA allowed to produce tetrameric reagents and showed that epitope-specific T cells recognizing either selectively or promiscuously restricted epitopes were predominantly T effector memory. In conclusion, these results highlight the feasibility of more clearly defined TB diagnostic reagent.
The frequency of epitope-specific naive CD4(+) T cells in humans has not been extensively examined. In this study, a systematic approach was used to examine the frequency of CD4(+) T cells that recognize the protective Ag of Bacillus anthracis in both anthrax vaccine-adsorbed vaccinees and nonvaccinees with HLA-DRB1*01:01 haplotypes. Three epitopes were identified that had distinct degrees of immunodominance in subjects that had received the vaccine. Average naive precursor frequencies of T cells specific for these different epitopes in the human repertoire ranged from 0.2 to 10 per million naive CD4(+) T cells, which is comparable to precursor frequencies observed in the murine repertoire. Frequencies of protective Ag-specific T cells were two orders of magnitude higher in immunized subjects than in nonvaccinees. The frequencies of epitope-specific memory CD4(+) T cells in vaccinees were directly correlated with the frequencies of precursors in the naive repertoire. At the level of TCR usage, at least one preferred V? in the naive repertoire was present in the memory repertoire. These findings implicate naive frequencies as a crucial factor in shaping the epitope specificity of memory CD4(+) T cell responses.
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