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Vaccine. 2003 Oct 1;21(27-30):4486-504.

Mapping cross-clade HIV-1 vaccine epitopes using a bioinformatics approach.

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TB/HIV Research Lab, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 , USA.


The genomic variability of HIV viruses circulating in different regions of the world has impeded the development of a globally relevant HIV vaccine. Broadly conserved HIV-1 cytotoxic T cell (CTL) epitopes were identified by screening protein sequences in the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) HIV sequence database with a sequence parsing and matching algorithm (Conservatrix). Putative HIV-1 CTL epitopes were selected from this list using the epitope prediction tool EpiMatrix.


One hundred peptides representing putative HLA A*0201, HLA A*1101, HLA A*0301, and HLA B*07 ligands conserved in many isolates of HIV-1 were synthesized. Seventy-five HLA A*0201, HLA A*1101 and HLA B*07 peptides were incubated with transport associated protein (TAP)-deficient T2 cells transfected with the gene for the corresponding human HLA molecule (HLA A*0201, HLA A*1101, and HLA B*07). Binding and stabilization of peptide-HLA complexes on the surface of the T2 cells was measured by FACS. T cell responses to the entire set of 100 peptides (HLA A*0201, HLA A*1101, HLA A*0301, and HLA B*07) were measured in ELIspot assays using PBMC from healthy HIV-1 infected subjects who possessed a matching HLA allele.


Fifty-seven (76%) of the 75 peptides tested in binding studies, including all (three of three) of the control (published) ligands bound to the T2 cells expressing the corresponding MHC molecule. Forty-three of the 100 peptides (43%) including all (four of four) of the control (published) epitopes tested in ELIspot assays stimulated gamma-interferon release. Thirty-one of these 43 epitopes are novel, highly conserved HIV-1 epitopes. EpiMatrix predicted and assays confirmed MHC-restriction by more than one HLA allele for nine of the 43 novel epitopes; of these epitopes five were recognized in the context of MHC "supertypes" and four were promiscuous epitopes.


Epitopes identified using this approach were conserved in a broad range of HIV-1 sequences derived from isolates obtained in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Europe and the US. The successful identification of cross-clade epitopes by this bioinformatics approach may accelerate the development of a globally relevant HIV-1 vaccine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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