A T cell epitope-based vaccine protects against chlamydial infection in HLA-DR4 transgenic mice

Weidang Li, Ashlesh K Murthy, Gopala Krishna Lanka, Senthilnath L Chetty, Jieh-Juen Yu, James P Chambers, Guangming Zhong, Thomas G Forsthuber, M Neal Guentzel, Bernard P Arulanandam
Vaccine 2013 November 19, 31 (48): 5722-8
Vaccination with recombinant chlamydial protease-like activity factor (rCPAF) has been shown to provide robust protection against genital Chlamydia infection. Adoptive transfer of IFN-γ competent CPAF-specific CD4⁺ T cells was sufficient to induce early resolution of chlamydial infection and reduction of subsequent pathology in recipient IFN-γ-deficient mice indicating the importance of IFN-γ secreting CD4⁺ T cells in host defense against Chlamydia. In this study, we identify CD4⁺ T cell reactive CPAF epitopes and characterize the activation of epitope-specific CD4⁺ T cells following antigen immunization or Chlamydia challenge. Using the HLA-DR4 (HLA-DRB1*0401) transgenic mouse for screening overlapping peptides that induced T cell IFN-γ production, we identified at least 5 CPAF T cell epitopes presented by the HLA-DR4 complex. Immunization of HLA-DR4 transgenic mice with a rCPAFep fusion protein containing these 5 epitopes induced a robust cell-mediated immune response and significantly accelerated the resolution of genital and pulmonary Chlamydia infection. rCPAFep vaccination induced CPAF-specific CD4⁺ T cells in the spleen were detected using HLA-DR4/CPAF-epitope tetramers. Additionally, CPAF-specific CD4⁺ clones could be detected in the mouse spleen following Chlamydia muridarum and a human Chlamydia trachomatis strain challenge using these novel tetramers. These results provide the first direct evidence that a novel CPAF epitope vaccine can provide protection and that HLA-DR4/CPAF-epitope tetramers can detect CPAF epitope-specific CD4⁺ T cells in HLA-DR4 mice following C. muridarum or C. trachomatis infection. Such tetramers could be a useful tool for monitoring CD4⁺ T cells in immunity to Chlamydia infection and in developing epitope-based human vaccines using the murine model.

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