Product(s) used in this publication: PepStar™ Peptide Microarrays
A more effective vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is needed, and a number of M. tuberculosis vaccine candidates are currently in preclinical or clinical phase I and II studies. One of the strategies to select M. tuberculosis (protein) targets to elicit a CD8(+) or CD4(+) T-cell response is to gauge the binding of candidate peptides to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I or class II molecules, a prerequisite for successful peptide presentation and to expand antigen-specific T cells. We scanned 61 proteins from the M. tuberculosis proteome for potential MHC class II-presented epitopes that could serve as targets for CD4(+) T-cell responses. We constructed a peptide microarray consisting of 7,466 unique peptides derived from 61 M. tuberculosis proteins. The peptides were 15-mers overlapping by 12 amino acids. Soluble recombinant DRB1*0101 (DR1), DRB1*1501 (DR2), and DRB1*0401 (DR4) monomers were used to gauge binding to individual peptide species. Out of 7,466 peptides, 1,282, 674, and 1,854 peptides formed stable complexes with HLA-DR1, -DR2, and -DR4, respectively. Five hundred forty-four peptides bound to all three MHC class II molecules, 609 bound to only two, and 756 bound to only a single MHC class II molecule. This allowed us to rank M. tuberculosis proteins by epitope density. M. tuberculosis proteins contained "hot spots," i.e., regions with enriched MHC class II binding epitopes. Two hundred twenty-two peptides that formed MHC class II-peptide complexes had previously been described as exclusively recognized by IgG in sera from patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis, but not in sera from healthy individuals, suggesting that these peptides serve as B-cell and CD4(+) T-cell epitopes. This work helps to identify not only M. tuberculosis peptides with immunogenic potential, but also the most immunogenic proteins. This information is useful for vaccine design and the development of future tools to explore immune responses to M. tuberculosis.