Class I HLA molecules mark infected cells for immune targeting by presenting pathogen-encoded peptides on the cell surface. Characterization of viral peptides unique to infected cells is important for understanding CD8+ T cell responses and for the development of T cell–based immunotherapies. Having previously reported a series of West Nile virus (WNV) epitopes that are naturally presented by HLA-A*02:01, in this study we generated TCR mimic (TCRm) mAbs to three of these peptide/HLA complexes—the immunodominant SVG9 (E protein), the subdominant SLF9 (NS4B protein), and the immunorecessive YTM9 (NS3 protein)—and used these TCRm mAbs to stain WNV-infected cell lines and primary APCs. TCRm staining of WNV-infected cells demonstrated that the immunorecessive YTM9 appeared several hours earlier and at 5- to 10-fold greater density than the more immunogenic SLF9 and SVG9 ligands, respectively. Moreover, staining following inhibition of the TAP demonstrated that all three viral ligands were presented in a TAP-dependent manner despite originating from different cellular compartments. To our knowledge, this study represents the first use of TCRm mAbs to define the kinetics and magnitude of HLA presentation for a series of epitopes encoded by one virus, and the results depict a pattern whereby individual epitopes differ considerably in abundance and availability. The observations that immunodominant ligands can be found at lower levels and at later time points after infection suggest that a reevaluation of the factors that combine to shape T cell reactivity may be warranted.
S. Kaabinejadian, Curtis McMurtrey, Sojung Kim
The Journal of Immunology