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J Immunol. 2011 Sep 1;187(5):2172-80. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1002512. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

The immunodominant CD8 T cell response to the human cytomegalovirus tegument phosphoprotein pp65(495-503) epitope critically depends on CD4 T cell help in vaccinated HLA-A*0201 transgenic mice.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine I, Ulm University Hospital, D-89081 Ulm, Germany.


Immunodominance hierarchies operating in immune responses to viral Ags limit the diversity of the elicited CD8 T cell responses. We evaluated in I-A(b+)/A2-HHD-II and HLA-DR1(+)/A2-DR1 mice the HLA-A*0201-restricted, multispecific CD8 T cell responses to the human CMV tegument phosphoprotein pp65 (pp65) Ag. Vaccination of mice with pp65-encoding DNA elicited high IFN-γ(+) CD8 T cell frequencies to the pp65(495-503)/(e6) epitope and low responses to the pp65(320-328)/(e3) and pp65(522-530)/(e8) epitopes. Abrogation of the e6-specific immunity efficiently enhanced e3- and e8-specific T cell responses by a pp65(Δ501-503) DNA vaccine. The immunodominant e6-specific (but not the e3- and e8-specific) CD8 T cell response critically depends on CD4 T cell help. Injection of monospecific DNA- or peptide-based vaccines encoding the e3 or e8 (but not the e6) epitope into mice elicited CD8 T cells. Codelivering the antigenic peptides with different heterologous CD4 T cell helper epitopes enhanced e6-specific (but not e3- or e8-specific) CD8 T cell responses. Similarly, homologous CD4 T cell help, located within an overlapping (nested) pp65(487-503) domain, facilitated induction of e6-specific CD8 T cell responses by peptide-based vaccination. The position of the e6 epitope within this nested domain is not critical to induce the immunodominant, e6-specific CD8 T cell response to the pp65 Ag. Distant CD4 T cell epitope(s) can thus provide efficient help for establishing pp65-e6 immunodominance in vaccinated mice. These results have practical implications for the design of new T cell-stimulating vaccines.

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