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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Protein antigenic structures recognized by T cells: potential applications to vaccine design.

In summary, our results using the model protein antigen myoglobin indicated, in concordance with others, that helper T lymphocytes recognize a limited number of immunodominant antigenic sites of any given protein. Such immunodominant sites are the focus of a polyclonal response of a number of different T cells specific for distinct but overlapping epitopes. Therefore, the immunodominance does not depend on the fine specificity of any given clone of T cells, but rather on other factors, either intrinsic or extrinsic to the structure of the antigen. A major extrinsic factor is the MHC of the responding individual, probably due to a requirement for the immunodominant peptides to bind to the MHC of presenting cells in that individual. In looking for intrinsic factors, we noted that both immunodominant sites of myoglobin were amphipathic helices, i.e., helices having hydrophilic and hydrophobic residues on opposite sides. Studies with synthetic peptides indicated that residues on the hydrophilic side were necessary for T-cell recognition. However, unfolding of the native protein was shown to be the apparent goal of processing of antigen, presumably to expose something not already exposed on the native molecule, such as the hydrophobic sides of these helices. We propose that such exposure is necessary to interact with something on the presenting cell, such as MHC or membrane, where we have demonstrated the presence of antigenic peptides by blocking of presentation of biotinylated peptide with avidin. The membrane may serve as a short-term memory of peptides from antigens encountered by the presenting cell, for dynamic sampling by MHC molecules to be available for presentation to T cells. These ideas, together with the knowledge that T-cell recognition required only short peptides and therefore had to be based only on primary or secondary structure, not tertiary folding of the native protein, led us to propose that T-cell immunodominant epitopes may tend to be amphipathic structures. An algorithm to search for potential amphipathic helices from sequence information identified 18 of 23 known immunodominant T-cell epitopes from 12 proteins (p less than 0.001). Another statistical approach confirmed the importance of amphipathicity and also supported the importance of helical structure that had been proposed by others. It suggested that peptides able to form a stable secondary structure, especially a helix, more commonly formed immunodominant epitopes. We used this approach to predict potential immunodominant epitopes for induction of T-cell immunity in proteins of clinical relevance, such as the malarial circumsporozoite protein and the AIDS viral envelope.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)[1]


  1. Protein antigenic structures recognized by T cells: potential applications to vaccine design. Berzofsky, J.A., Cease, K.B., Cornette, J.L., Spouge, J.L., Margalit, H., Berkower, I.J., Good, M.F., Miller, L.H., DeLisi, C. Immunol. Rev. (1987) [Pubmed]
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