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Int Immunol. 2000 Mar;12(3):281-93.

A repetitive sequence of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 6 comprises overlapping T cell epitopes which induce HLA-DR-restricted CD4(+) T lymphocytes.

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Microbiology and Tumorbiology Center, Karolinska Institute, 17 177 Stockholm, Sweden.


Most human adults carry the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and develop immunological memory against the structural and the virus-encoded cellular proteins. The EBV nuclear antigen 6 (EBNA6) elicits cytotoxic T cell responses and it also maintains a persistent antibody response. The majority of sera from EBV-seropositive individuals reacts with a synthetic peptide, p63, comprising 21 amino acids of a repetitive region of EBNA6. CD4(+) T lymphocytes, with specificity for p63, could be recalled from the T cell repertoire of EBV carriers that expressed certain HLA-DR allotypes which were identified as good binders of p63 by an in vitro flow cytometric assay. Analysis of the HLA-DR/p63 interaction by molecular mechanics calculations indicated the presence of multiple overlapping epitopes which were predicted to bind in a HLA-DRB1 allo- and subtype-specific manner. Specific activation of p63-selected long-term CD4(+) T cell cultures resulted in a proliferative response, in the production of IL-2 and in the secretion of high levels of tumor necrosis factor as measured by bioassays. Proliferation and cytokine production of p63-specific T cells could be induced by p63-loaded HLA-DR-matched antigen-presenting cells and by B cells co-expressing relevant HLA-DR molecules and EBNA6. Our results show that peptides of an EBNA6 repeat region induce CD4(+) T cells which can react with EBNA6-carrying cells in many individuals. We suggest that these T(h) cells may be important in conditioning dendritic cells for initiation potent virus-specific immune responses, provide help for EBV-specific B cells, drive IgG isotype switch and support the sustained effector function of memory cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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