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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2004 Jul;100(1-2):49-59.

Peptide mapping of feline immunodeficiency virus by IFN-gamma ELISPOT.

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Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA.


Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) has become an important tool in studying antigen-specific T lymphocyte responses. Soluble peptides can be used to map T-cell epitopes, providing information that is useful in the design and evaluation of vaccines as well as studies of immunopathogenesis. To date, this assay has not been widely utilized in feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) research. We have developed a feline IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay and used it to determine FIV-specific T-cell epitopes recognized by infected cats. A panel of 331 peptides, 15 amino acids in length and overlapping by 10 residues was synthesized. The peptide library spanned the FIV structural (Gag), envelope (Env), reverse transcriptase (RT), and open-reading-frame A (OrfA) proteins. Initially, 34 pools, containing 7-10 peptides each were screened by IFN-gamma ELISPOT against peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from eight cats chronically infected with the NCSU(1) molecular clone of FIV and four uninfected control cats. Individual peptides from pools recognized by FIV+ cats were then evaluated and optimal peptides were combined into pools representing Gag, Env, RT, and OrfA. A higher percentage of FIV infected cats were identified as responders against the peptide pools when using fresh PBMC as compared to cryopreserved PBMC. In vitro restimulation of cryopreserved PBMC with the peptide pools improved the sensitivity of the assay to similar levels as observed from fresh samples. Individual peptides used in the pools were generally found to stimulate CD8+ T-cells more efficiently than CD4+ T-cells. Comparison of the peptide sequences to representative FIV sequences from clades A-D showed conservation was high among Gag and RT peptides, variable among Env peptides and low for OrfA peptides. The IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay and FIV-specific peptide pools we describe here will be useful in assessing cell-mediated responses to experimental FIV vaccines.

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