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J Immunol. 2011 Jun 1;186(11):6319-28. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1000883. Epub 2011 May 2.

Effect of MHC class I diversification on influenza epitope-specific CD8+ T cell precursor frequency and subsequent effector function.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Earlier studies of influenza-specific CD8(+) T cell immunodominance hierarchies indicated that expression of the H2K(k) MHC class I allele greatly diminishes responses to the H2D(b)-restriced D(b)PA(224) epitope (acid polymerase, residues 224-233 complexed with H2D(b)). The results suggested that the presence of H2K(k) during thymic differentiation led to the deletion of a prominent Vβ7(+) subset of D(b)PA(224)-specific TCRs. The more recent definition of D(b)PA(224)-specific TCR CDR3β repertoires in H2(b) mice provides a new baseline for looking again at this possible H2K(k) effect on D(b)PA(224)-specific TCR selection. We found that immune responses to several H2D(b)- and H2K(b)-restricted influenza epitopes were indeed diminished in H2(bxk) F(1) versus homozygous mice. In the case of D(b)PA(224), lower numbers of naive precursors were part of the explanation, though a similar decrease in those specific for the D(b)NP(366) epitope did not affect response magnitude. Changes in precursor frequency were not associated with any major loss of TCR diversity and could not fully account for the diminished D(b)PA(224)-specific response. Further functional and phenotypic characterization of influenza-specific CD8(+) T cells suggested that the expansion and differentiation of the D(b)PA(224)-specific set is impaired in the H2(bxk) F(1) environment. Thus, the D(b)PA(224) response in H2(bxk) F(1) mice is modulated by factors that affect the generation of naive epitope-specific precursors and the expansion and differentiation of these T cells during infection, rather than clonal deletion of a prominent Vβ7(+) subset. Such findings illustrate the difficulties of predicting and defining the effects of MHC class I diversification on epitope-specific responses.

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