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Eur J Immunol. 2001 Jun;31(6):1747-56.

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes recognize structurally diverse, clade-specific and cross-reactive peptides in human immunodeficiency virus type-1 gag through HLA-B53.

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MRC Human Immunology Group, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, GB.


Human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes have largely been defined in Caucasian populations infected with clade B virus. Identification of potentially protective CTL epitopes in non-B clade-infected African subjects is important for vaccine development. In a study of CTL responses in clade A-infected Gambians, using cytotoxicity, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISpot) and HLA-B53-peptide tetramer assays, we identified three HLA-B53-restricted epitopes in HIV-1 gag p24. CTL specific for an epitope in a highly immunogenic region of the p24 protein showed no cross-reactivity to other HIV-1 clades. Two of the epitopes would not have been predicted from the peptide-binding motif due to the absence of a proline anchor at position 2. Structural analysis of HLA-B53 and its relative, HLA B35, enabled us to re-define the peptide-binding motif to include other P2 anchors. These results demonstrate the value of combined immunological and structural analyses in defining novel CTL epitopes and have implications for HIV-1 vaccine design.

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