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J Immunol. 2016 Oct 15;197(8):3214-3224. Epub 2016 Sep 2.

Circulating Memory CD4+ T Cells Target Conserved Epitopes of Rhinovirus Capsid Proteins and Respond Rapidly to Experimental Infection in Humans.

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Department of Medicine, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908.
Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle, WA 98101.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908; and.
Indoor Biotechnologies Inc., Charlottesville, VA 22903.
Department of Medicine, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908;


Rhinovirus (RV) is a major cause of common cold and an important trigger of acute episodes of chronic lung diseases. Antigenic variation across the numerous RV strains results in frequent infections and a lack of durable cross-protection. Because the nature of human CD4+ T cells that target RV is largely unknown, T cell epitopes of RV capsid proteins were analyzed, and cognate T cells were characterized in healthy subjects and those infected by intranasal challenge. Peptide epitopes of the RV-A16 capsid proteins VP1 and VP2 were identified by peptide/MHC class II tetramer-guided epitope mapping, validated by direct ex vivo enumeration, and interrogated using a variety of in silico methods. Among noninfected subjects, those circulating RV-A16-specific CD4+ T cells detected at the highest frequencies targeted 10 unique epitopes that bound to diverse HLA-DR molecules. T cell epitopes localized to conserved molecular regions of biological significance to the virus were enriched for HLA class I and II binding motifs, and constituted both species-specific (RV-A) and pan-species (RV-A, -B, and -C) varieties. Circulating epitope-specific T cells comprised both memory Th1 and T follicular helper cells, and were rapidly expanded and activated after intranasal challenge with RV-A16. Cross-reactivity was evidenced by identification of a common *0401-restricted epitope for RV-A16 and RV-A39 by tetramer-guided epitope mapping and the ability for RV-A16-specific Th1 cells to proliferate in response to their RV-A39 peptide counterpart. The preferential persistence of high-frequency RV-specific memory Th1 cells that recognize a limited set of conserved epitopes likely arises from iterative priming by previous exposures to different RV strains.

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