Science2013-09-05 2:56 AM

Cytomegalovirus Vectors Violate CD8+ T Cell Epitope Recognition Paradigms

CD8+ T cell responses focus on a small fraction of pathogen- or vaccine-encoded peptides, and for some pathogens, these restricted recognition hierarchies limit the effectiveness of antipathogen immunity. We found that simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) protein–expressing rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) vectors elicit SIV-specific CD8+ T cells that recognize unusual, diverse, and highly promiscuous epitopes, including dominant responses to epitopes restricted by class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Induction of canonical SIV epitope–specific CD8+ T cell responses is suppressed by the RhCMV-encoded Rh189 gene (corresponding to human CMV US11), and the promiscuous MHC class I– and class II–restricted CD8+ T cell responses occur only in the absence of the Rh157.5, Rh157.4, and Rh157.6 (human CMV UL128, UL130, and UL131) genes. Thus, CMV vectors can be genetically programmed to achieve distinct patterns of CD8+ T cell epitope recognition.

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