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J Immunol. 2009 Nov 15;183(10):6432-41. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0901617. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

In vitro responses to avian influenza H5 by human CD4 T cells.

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Division of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, Department of Pathology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA.


To address the question of whether human T cells are capable of recognizing novel isolates of influenza virus, in vitro responses to recombinant Ags and synthetic peptides derived from the sequences of H1, H3, and H5 were examined in a cohort of 64 individuals selected from a healthy blood donor population. Humans respond in vitro to H1 and H3 following exposure through natural infection and vaccination. Responses to H5 were well correlated with those to H1 or H3, and thus, a significant repertoire of H5-responsive T cells is present in many individuals; clear nonresponders to H1, H3, and H5, however, do exist. Differences were observed in the cytokine responses to H1, H3, and H5, whereas both IL-2 and IFN-gamma production characteristic of memory responses were observed for H1 and H3, and H5-specific responses elicited primarily IL-2 and little or no IFN-gamma, consistent with a naive T cell phenotype. Responses to all influenza HA were restricted by HLA-DR molecules. To address the structural basis for T cell recognition of H1 and H5, overlapping synthetic peptides were used to identify epitopes and to determine whether recognition of H5 was limited to homologous sequences in H1, the most closely related HA phylogenetically. Although responses were generally correlated, no complete structural overlap was observed. These results suggest that helper T cell cross reactivity between different influenza strains may impart cross-protection to H5N1 strain of influenza.

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