A Statistical Framework for Modeling HLA-Dependent T Cell Response Data


The identification of T cell epitopes and their HLA (human leukocyte antigen) restrictions is important for applications such as the design of cellular vaccines for HIV. Traditional methods for such identification are costly and time-consuming. Recently, a more expeditious laboratory technique using ELISpot assays has been developed that allows for rapid screening of specific responses. However, this assay does not directly provide information concerning the HLA restriction of a response, a critical piece of information for vaccine design. Thus, we introduce, apply, and validate a statistical model for identifying HLA-restricted epitopes from ELISpot data. By looking at patterns across a broad range of donors, in conjunction with our statistical model, we can determine (probabilistically) which of the HLA alleles are likely to be responsible for the observed reactivities. Additionally, we can provide a good estimate of the number of false positives generated by our analysis (i.e., the false discovery rate). This model allows us to learn about new HLA-restricted epitopes from ELISpot data in an efficient, cost-effective, and high-throughput manner. We applied our approach to data from donors infected with HIV and identified many potential new HLA restrictions. Among 134 such predictions, six were confirmed in the lab and the remainder could not be ruled as invalid. These results shed light on the extent of HLA class I promiscuity, which has significant implications for the understanding of HLA class I antigen presentation and vaccine development.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030188

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@article{Listgarten2007ASF, title={A Statistical Framework for Modeling HLA-Dependent T Cell Response Data}, author={Jennifer Listgarten and Nicole Frahm and Carl Myers Kadie and Christian Brander and David Heckerman}, journal={PLoS Computational Biology}, year={2007}, volume={3}, pages={2073 - 2081} }