Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
The pp65(495-503) cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) epitope from cytomegalovirus (CMV) is universally recognized among CMV+ individuals who express an allele of the human leukocyte antigen A (HLA-A*0201). The relative binding affinity of the epitope to HLA-A*0201 is moderate, and its increased activity might prove beneficial in its use as a CTL epitope vaccine. A new approach to enhance the activity of T-cell epitopes is the use of positional scanning synthetic combinatorial libraries (PS-SCLs). Using a nonamer PS-SCL, the pp65(495-503) epitope was modified after screening a CMV-specific T-cell clone (TCC) (3-3F4) from which the native peptide sequence was derived. Two peptides with amino acid substitutions at P1, P3, P7, and P8 are between 10(3) and 10(4) more active than the native epitope. Although the native CTL epitope terminates as a free acid, both tetrasubstituted peptides only function as CTL epitopes when the carboxyl terminus is amidated. Selective substitution of the native sequence based on PS-SCL screening results identified 3 amidated monosubstituted and disubstituted peptides that are better recognized than the native epitope by TCCs from a cohort expressing HLA-A*0201. In vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with each of the peptide epitope analogs stimulated memory CTLs, which recognized CMV-infected targets among a high percentage of CMV+ individuals. Binding studies of peptide analogs with HLA-Ig (immunoglobulin) dimers and 2 different TCCs correlated with in vitro lysis results. These data suggest that increasing the activity of CTL epitopes while maintaining broad recognition is possible, which holds promise for vaccine development in infectious disease and cancer.