UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pathology; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Publication Date


Document Type



Biochemistry | Bioinformatics | Computational Biology | Immunity | Immunopathology | Virus Diseases


Most of humanity is chronically infected with human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), with viral replication controlled at least in part by a poorly characterized CD4 T cell response. Identification of viral epitopes recognized by CD4 T cells is complicated by the large size of the herpesvirus genome and a low frequency of circulating T cells responding to the virus. Here, we present an alternative to classical epitope mapping approaches used to identify major targets of the T cell response to a complex pathogen like HHV-6B. In the approach presented here, extracellular virus preparations or virus-infected cells are fractionated by SDS-PAGE, and eluted fractions are used as source of antigens to study cytokine responses in direct ex vivo T cell activation studies. Fractions inducing significant cytokine responses are analyzed by mass spectrometry to identify viral proteins, and a subset of peptides from these proteins corresponding to predicted HLA-DR binders is tested for IFN-gamma production in seropositive donors with diverse HLA haplotypes. Ten HHV-6B viral proteins were identified as immunodominant antigens. The epitope-specific response to HHV-6B virus was complex and variable between individuals. We identified 107 peptides, each recognized by at least one donor, with each donor having a distinctive footprint. Fourteen peptides showed responses in the majority of donors. Responses to these epitopes were validated using in vitro expanded cells and naturally expressed viral proteins. Predicted peptide binding affinities for the eight HLA-DRB1 alleles investigated here correlated only modestly with the observed CD4 T cell responses. Overall, the response to the virus was dominated by peptides from the major capsid protein U57 and major antigenic protein U11, but responses to other proteins including glycoprotein H (U48) and tegument proteins U54 and U14 also were observed. These results provide a means to follow and potentially modulate the CD4 T-cell immune response to HHV-6B.

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Copyright: 2015 Becerra-Artiles et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

DOI of Published Version



PLoS One. 2015 Nov 23;10(11):e0142871. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142871. eCollection 2015. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

PloS one

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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