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J Virol. 1993 Apr; 67(4): 1796–1802.
PMCID: PMC240227

T-cell responses to highly conserved CD4 and CD8 epitopes on the outer membrane protein of bovine leukemia virus: relevance to vaccine development.


Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) is a retrovirus that infects cattle and sheep and may provide a model for studying human leukemia. Cell-mediated immune mechanisms may play a major role in protection against BLV infection. We describe here for the first time the identification of proliferative (CD4) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CD8) epitopes of the gp51 envelope (env) protein of BLV. This protein and a recombinant form expressed by a vaccinia virus construct have been shown to be potential vaccine candidates. A complete series of overlapping peptides, 20 amino acids in length, was prepared to identify epitopes from gp51. These peptides were tested for the ability to elicit peripheral blood lymphocyte proliferation and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses in infected and uninfected cattle and sheep. Peptides 51-70 and 61-80 produced a proliferative response in lymphocytes from only uninfected animals (both sheep and cattle), and this was shown by T-cell subset deletion to be a CD4-mediated response. Seven BLV-infected sheep did not show a response to either peptide. Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activity, however, was associated only with peptides 121-140 and 131-150. In this case, the response was demonstrated to be CD8 dependent and was found only in BLV-infected animals (sheep). Knowledge of the location of these T-cell recognition domains will complement data available on B-cell epitopes in gp51 and may be useful in the design of a subunit vaccine.

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