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J Immunol. 2009 Jul 1;183(1):370-80. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900505.

Elimination of immunodominant epitopes from multispecific DNA-based vaccines allows induction of CD8 T cells that have a striking antiviral potential.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Ulm, Germany.


Immunodominance limits the TCR diversity of specific antiviral CD8 T cell responses elicited by vaccination or infection. To prime multispecific T cell responses, we constructed DNA vaccines that coexpress chimeric, multidomain Ags (with CD8 T cell-defined epitopes of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface (S), core (C), and polymerase (Pol) proteins and/or the OVA Ag as stress protein-capturing fusion proteins. Priming of mono- or multispecific, HLA-A*0201- or K(b)-restricted CD8 T cell responses by these DNA vaccines differed. K(b)/OVA(257-264)- and K(b)/S(190-197)-specific CD8 T cell responses did not allow priming of a K(b)/C(93-100)-specific CD8 T cell response in mice immunized with multidomain vaccines. Tolerance to the S- Ag in transgenic Alb/HBs mice (that express large amounts of transgene-encoded S- Ag in the liver) facilitated priming of subdominant, K(b)/C(93-100)-specific CD8 T cell immunity by multidomain Ags. The "weak" (i.e., easily suppressed) K(b)/C(93-100)-specific CD8 T cell response was efficiently elicited by a HBV core Ag-encoding vector in 1.4HBV-S(mut) tg mice (that harbor a replicating HBV genome that produces HBV surface, core, and precore Ag in the liver). K(b)/C(93-100)-specific CD8 T cells accumulated in the liver of vaccinated 1.4HBV-S(mut) transgenic mice where they suppressed HBV replication. Subdominant epitopes in vaccines can hence prime specific CD8 T cell immunity in a tolerogenic milieu that delivers specific antiviral effects to HBV-expressing hepatocytes.

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