Product(s) used in this publication: PepTrack™ Peptide Libraries
Control of murine cytomegalovirus (mCMV) infection is mediated primarily by CD8 T cells, with four specificities dominating in BALB/c mice. Functional deletion of the respective immunodominant epitopes (IDEs) in mutant virus Δ4IDE revealed a still efficient control of infection. In a murine model of hematopoietic cell transplantation and infection with Δ4IDE, an mCMV-specific open reading frame (ORF) library screening assay indicated a strong CD8 T cell reactivity against the ORF-M54 product, the highly conserved and essential mCMV homolog of human CMV DNA polymerase UL54, which is a known inducer of in vivo protection against mCMV by DNA immunization. Applying bioinformatic algorithms for CD8 T cell epitope prediction, the top-scoring peptides were used to stimulate ex vivo-isolated CD8 T cells and to generate cytolytic T cell lines; yet, this approach failed to identify M54 epitope(s). As an alternative, a peptide library consisting of 549 10-mers with an offset of two amino acids (aa), covering the complete aa-sequence of the M54 protein, was synthesized and used for the stimulation. A region of 12 aa proved to encompass an epitope. An 'alanine walk' over this antigenic 12-mer and all possible 11-, 10- and 9-mers derived thereof revealed aa-residues critical for antigenicity, and terminal truncations identified the H-2D(d) presented 8-mer M5483-90 as the optimal epitope. An increased frequency of the corresponding CD8 T cells in the absence of the 4 IDEs indicated immunodomination by the IDE-specific CD8 T cells as a mechanism by which the generation of M54-specific CD8 T cells is inhibited after infection with wild-type mCMV.