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Background: Human adenovirus (HAdV) infections remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Efficient antiviral T-cell responses are necessary to clear infection, which is hampered by delayed immune reconstitution and medical immunosuppression after HSCT. Protective immunity may be conferred by adoptive transfer of HAdV-specific T cells. For identification of patients at risk and monitoring of treatment responses diligent assessment of anti-HAdV cellular immune responses is crucial. The HAdV-derived protein hexon has been recognized as a major immunodominant target across HAdV species. We aimed at identifying further targets of protective anti-HAdV immune response and characterizing immunogenic epitopes. Methods: Nineteen candidate nonamers from hexon and penton proteins were identified by epitope binding prediction. Peptides were synthesized and tested for in vivo immunogenicity by screening peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers (n = 64) and HAdV-infected stem cell recipients (n = 26) for memory T cells recognizing the candidate epitopes in the context of most common HLA alleles. Results: Functional CD8+ T cells recognizing seven epitopes were identified, among them four penton-derived and two hexon-derived peptides. The HLA-A*01-restricted penton-derived peptide STDVASLNY (A01PentonSTDV) and HLA-A*02-restricted hexon-derived peptide TLLYVLFEV (A02HexonTLLY) were recognized by more than half of the persons carrying the respective HLA-type. Conclusions: Thus, the HAdV-derived penton protein is a novel major target of the anti-HAdV immune response. Identification of new immunodominant epitopes will facilitate and broaden immune assessment strategies to identify patients suitable for T-cell transfer. Knowledge of additional target structures may increase T-cell recovery in manufacturing processes.
Tischer, S., Geyeregger, R., Kwoczek, J., Heim, A., Figueiredo, C., Blasczyk, R., … Eiz-Vesper, B. (2016). Discovery of immunodominant T-cell epitopes reveals penton protein as a second immunodominant target in human adenovirus infection. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-1042-2