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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26711. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026711. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Patterns of predicted T-cell epitopes associated with antigenic drift in influenza H3N2 hemagglutinin.

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  • 1ioGenetics LLC, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America. jane_homan@iogenetics.com

Abstract

Antigenic drift allowing escape from neutralizing antibodies is an important feature of transmission and survival of influenza viruses in host populations. Antigenic drift has been studied in particular detail for influenza A H3N2 and well defined antigenic clusters of this virus documented. We examine how host immunogenetics contributes to determination of the antibody spectrum, and hence the immune pressure bringing about antigenic drift. Using uTOPE™ bioinformatics analysis of predicted MHC binding, based on amino acid physical property principal components, we examined the binding affinity of all 9-mer and 15-mer peptides within the hemagglutinin 1 (HA1) of 447 H3N2 virus isolates to 35 MHC-I and 14 MHC-II alleles. We provide a comprehensive map of predicted MHC-I and MHC-II binding affinity for a broad array of HLA alleles for the H3N2 influenza HA1 protein. Each HLA allele exhibited a characteristic predicted binding pattern. Cluster analysis for each HLA allele shows that patterns based on predicted MHC binding mirror those described based on antibody binding. A single amino acid mutation or position displacement can result in a marked difference in MHC binding and hence potential T-helper function. We assessed the impact of individual amino acid changes in HA1 sequences between 10 virus isolates from 1968-2002, representative of antigenic clusters, to understand the changes in MHC binding over time. Gain and loss of predicted high affinity MHC-II binding sites with cluster transitions were documented. Predicted high affinity MHC-II binding sites were adjacent to antibody binding sites. We conclude that host MHC diversity may have a major determinant role in the antigenic drift of influenza A H3N2.

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