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Open Access Research

Elicitation from virus-naive individuals of cytotoxic T lymphocytes directed against conserved HIV-1 epitopes

Pedro A Reche12, Derin B Keskin12, Rebecca E Hussey1, Petronela Ancuta23, Dana Gabuzda23 and Ellis L Reinherz12*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Immunobiology and Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA

2 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA

3 Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA

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Medical Immunology 2006, 5:1  doi:10.1186/1476-9433-5-1

Published: 18 May 2006

Abstract

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) protect against viruses including HIV-1. To avoid viral escape mutants that thwart immunity, we chose 25 CTL epitopes defined in the context of natural infection with functional and/or structural constraints that maintain sequence conservation. By combining HLA binding predictions with knowledge concerning HLA allele frequencies, a metric estimating population protection coverage (PPC) was computed and epitope pools assembled. Strikingly, only a minority of immunocompetent HIV-1 infected individuals responds to pools with PPC >95%. In contrast, virus-naive individuals uniformly expand IFN╬│ producing cells and mount anti-HIV-1 cytolytic activity. This disparity suggests a vaccine design paradigm shift from infected to normal subjects.