Research Summary: Identification of CD4+ T Cell Epitopes in C. burnetii Antigens Targeted by Antibody Responses
Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular Gram-negative bacterium that causes acute Q fever and chronic infections in humans. A killed, whole cell vaccine is efficacious, but vaccination can result in severe local or systemic adverse reactions. Although T cell responses are considered pivotal for vaccine derived protective immunity, the epitope targets of CD4+ T cell responses in C. burnetii vaccination have not been elucidated. Since mapping CD4+ epitopes in a genome with over 2,000 ORFs is resource intensive, we focused on 7 antigens that were known to be targeted by antibody responses. 117 candidate peptides were selected from these antigens based on bioinformatics predictions of binding to the murine MHC class II molecule H-2 IAb. We screened these peptides for recognition by IFN-γ producing CD4+ T cell in phase I C. burnetii whole cell vaccine (PI-WCV) vaccinated C57BL/6 mice and identified 8 distinct epitopes from four different proteins. The identified epitope targets account for 8% of the total vaccination induced IFN-γ producing CD4+ T cells. Given that less than 0.4% of the antigens contained in C. burnetii were screened, this suggests that prioritizing antigens targeted by antibody responses is an efficient strategy to identify at least a subset of CD4+ targets in large pathogens. Finally, we examined the nature of linkage between CD4+ T cell and antibody responses in PI-WCV vaccinated mice. We found a surprisingly non-uniform pattern in the help provided by epitope specific CD4+ T cells for antibody production, which can be specific for the epitope source antigen as well as non-specific. This suggests that a complete map of CD4+ response targets in PI-WCV vaccinated mice will likely include antigens against which no antibody responses are made.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 15-March-2011
Author(s): Chen C., Dow C., Wang P., Sidney J., Read A., Harmsen A., Samuel J., Peters B.