Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Department of Medicine; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Program in Immunology and Virology; Department of Pathology
The hemagglutinin protein (HA) of the influenza virus family is a major antigen for protective immunity. Thus, it is a relevant target for developing vaccines. Here, we describe a human CD4(+) T cell epitope in the influenza virus HA that lies in the fusion peptide of the HA. This epitope is well conserved in all 16 subtypes of the HA protein of influenza A virus and the HA protein of influenza B virus. By stimulating peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from a healthy adult donor with peptides covering the entire HA protein based on the sequence of A/Japan/305/1957 (H2N2), we generated a T cell line specific to this epitope. This CD4(+) T cell line recognizes target cells infected with influenza A virus seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 strains, a reassortant H2N1 strain, the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain, and influenza B virus in cytotoxicity assays and intracellular-cytokine-staining assays. It also lysed target cells infected with avian H5N1 virus. We screened healthy adult PBMCs for T cell responses specific to this epitope and found individuals who had ex vivo gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) responses to the peptide epitope in enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays. Almost all donors who responded to the epitope had the HLA-DRB1*09 allele, a relatively common HLA allele. Although natural infection or standard vaccination may not induce strong T and B cell responses to this highly conserved epitope in the fusion peptide, it may be possible to develop a vaccination strategy to induce these CD4(+) T cells, which are cross-reactive to both influenza A and B viruses.
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J Virol. 2012 Sep;86(17):9233-43. doi: 10.1128/JVI.06325-11. Epub 2012 Jun 20. Link to article on publisher's site
Babon, Jenny Aurielle B.; Cruz, John; Ennis, Francis A.; Yin, Liusong; and Terajima, Masanori, "A human CD4+ T cell epitope in the influenza hemagglutinin is cross-reactive to influenza A virus subtypes and to influenza B virus" (2012). Infectious Diseases and Immunology Publications and Presentations. 235.