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PLoS One. 2010 May 11;5(5):e10583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010583.

Significant impact of sequence variations in the nucleoprotein on CD8 T cell-mediated cross-protection against influenza A virus infections.

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Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.



Memory CD8 T cells to influenza A viruses are widely detectable in healthy human subjects and broadly cross-reactive for serologically distinct influenza A virus subtypes. However, it is not clear to what extent such pre-existing cellular immunity can provide cross-subtype protection against novel emerging influenza A viruses.


We show in the mouse model that naturally occurring sequence variations of the conserved nucleoprotein of the virus significantly impact cross-protection against lethal disease in vivo. When priming and challenge viruses shared identical sequences of the immunodominant, protective NP(366)/D(b) epitope, strong cross-subtype protection was observed. However, when they did not share complete sequence identity in this epitope, cross-protection was considerably reduced. Contributions of virus-specific antibodies appeared to be minimal under these circumstances. Detailed analysis revealed that the magnitude of the memory CD8 T cell response triggered by the NP(366)/D(b) variants was significantly lower than those triggered by the homologous NP(366)/D(b) ligand. It appears that strict specificity of a dominant public TCR to the original NP(366)/D(b) ligand may limit the expansion of cross-reactive memory CD8 T cells to the NP(366)/D(b) variants.


Pre-existing CD8 T cell immunity may provide substantial cross-protection against heterosubtypic influenza A viruses, provided that the priming and the subsequent challenge viruses share the identical sequences of the immunodominant, protective CTL epitopes.

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