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Eur J Immunol. 2004 Sep;34(9):2510-9.

Potent T cell response to a class I-binding 13-mer viral epitope and the influence of HLA micropolymorphism in controlling epitope length.

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Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.


The BZLF1 antigen of Epstein-Barr virus includes three overlapping sequences of different lengths that conform to the binding motif of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) B*3501. These 9-mer (56LPQGQLTAY64), 11-mer (54EPLPQGQLTAY64), and 13-mer (52LPEPLPQGQLTAY64) peptides all bound well to B*3501; however, the CTL response in individuals expressing this HLA allele was directed strongly and exclusively towards the 11-mer peptide. In contrast, EBV-exposed donors expressing HLA B*3503 showed no significant CTL response to these peptides because the single amino acid difference between B*3501 and B*3503 within the F pocket inhibited HLA binding by these peptides. The extraordinarily long 13-mer peptide was the target for the CTL response in individuals expressing B*3508, which differs from B*3501 at a single position within the D pocket (B*3501, 156Leucine; B*3508, 156Arginine). This minor difference was shown to enhance binding of the 13-mer peptide, presumably through a stabilizing interaction between the negatively charged glutamate at position 3 of the peptide and the positively charged arginine at HLA position 156. The 13-mer epitope defined in this study represents the longest class I-binding viral epitope identified to date as a minimal determinant. Furthermore, the potency of the response indicates that peptides of this length do not present a major structural barrier to CTL recognition.

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