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J Clin Invest. 1997 Feb 15;99(4):752-62.

Identification of type-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses to homologous viral proteins in laboratory workers accidentally infected with HIV-1.

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AIDS Research Center, Infectious Disease Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown 02129, USA.


Characterization of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response against HIV-1 has been limited by the use of target cells expressing viral proteins from laboratory isolates of HIV-1. This approach has favored identification of group-specific CTL responses and precluded assessment of the extent of type-specific CTL responses directed against HIV-1. Using cells expressing viral proteins from the HIV-1 IIIB strain, we performed a detailed characterization of HIV-1-specific CTL response in three laboratory workers accidentally infected with HIV-1 IIIB. Eight of the epitopes identified were group specific, lying in relatively conserved regions of Gag, reverse transcriptase, and envelope. Three type-specific epitopes were identified, two of them in highly variable regions of envelope. In longitudinal studies in one subject, seven different epitopes and five different restricting HLA class I alleles were identified, with a progressive increase in the number of CTL epitopes recognized by this subject over time. Our data demonstrate that type-specific CTL responses make up a significant proportion of the host cellular immune response against HIV-1 and that a broadening of epitope specificity may occur.

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