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Eur J Immunol. 1998 Oct;28(10):3301-11.

A protective cytotoxic T cell response to a subdominant epitope is influenced by the stability of the MHC class I/peptide complex and the overall spectrum of viral peptides generated within infected cells.

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Institute of Experimental Immunology, Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


This study identifies instability of MHC class I/peptide complexes and intermolecular competition for MHC class I presentation as factors responsible for the subdominance of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. This evidence is based on the characterization of a new CTL epitope derived from the glycoprotein (GP) of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). This epitope, peptide GP117-125 (GP117) is presented to T cells by the mouse MHC class I molecule, H-2Db. In short-term experiments induction of GP117-specific CTL by vaccination rendered C57BL/6 mice only partially resistant to infection with wild-type LCMV (LCMV-WE) but completely resistant to challenge with a previously described LCMV variant. The variant virus, LCMV-8.7B23, bears point mutations within both known LCMV-GP, H-2 Db-restricted epitopes GP33-41 (GP33) and GP276-286 (GP276) resulting in a valine to leucine change at position 35 in peptide GP33 (V35L) and an asparagine to serine change at position 280 in peptide GP276 (N280S). Although variant peptide GP33/V35L stimulates a weak CTL response, GP276/N280S does not. Elution of peptide GP117 from both LCMV-WE- and LCMV-8.7B23-infected cells revealed that the difference in the capacity of GP117-specific CTL to protect against LCMV-WE and the virus variant LCMV-8.7B23 was due to differences in the level of GP117 presentation on the surface of both types of cells. Thus, it appears that the protective capacity of CTL specific for the subdominant epitope GP117 is influenced by the extent of presentation of other immunodominant peptide epitopes present within infected cells.

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