CD4+ T-cell epitope prediction using antigen processing constraints.
Using plasmid vaccination with DNA encoding the putative phosphate transport receptor PstS-3 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis and 36 overlapping 20-mer peptides spanning the entire PstS-3 sequence, we determined the immunodominant Th1-type CD4(+) T cell epitopes in C57BL/10 mice, as measured by spleen cell IL-2 and IFN-gamma production. Furthermore, a potent IFN-gamma-inducing, D(b)-restricted CD8(+) epitope was identified using MHC class I mutant B6.C-H-2(bm13) mice and intracellular IFN-gamma and whole blood CD8(+) T cell tetramer staining. Using adoptive transfer of CFSE-labeled, peptide-pulsed syngeneic spleen cells from naive animals into DNA vaccinated or M. tuberculosis-infected recipients, we demonstrated a functional in vivo CTL activity against this D(b)-restricted PstS-3 epitope. IFN-gamma ELISPOT responses to this epitope were also detected in tuberculosis-infected mice. The CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell epitopes defined for PstS-3 were completely specific and not recognized in mice vaccinated with either PstS-1 or PstS-2 DNA. The H-2 haplotype exerted a strong influence on immune reactivity to the PstS-3 Ag, and mice of the H-2(b, p, and f) haplotype produced significant Ab and Th1-type cytokine levels, whereas mice of H-2(d, k, r, s, and q) haplotype were completely unreactive. Low responsiveness against PstS-3 in MHC class II mutant B6.C-H-2(bm12) mice could be overcome by DNA vaccination. IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+) T cells could also be detected against the D(b)-restricted epitope in H-2(p) haplotype mice. These results highlight the potential of DNA vaccination for the induction and characterization of CD4(+) and particularly CD8(+) T cell responses against mycobacterial Ags.