Dengue is a member of the Flaviviridae, a large group of related viruses some of which co-circulate in certain regions (e.g. dengue and Yellow fever in South America). Immune responses cross-reactive between different dengue serotypes are important in the pathogenesis of dengue disease but it is not known whether previous infection with one flavivirus might affect the clinical course of subsequent infections with other members of the family. CD4+ T cells have been shown to be important in the production of cytokines in response to dengue infection and can demonstrate significant epitope cross-reactivity. Here, we describe the generation and characterisation of CD4+ T cell clones from a patient experiencing acute dengue infection. These clones were DRB1*15+ and recognised epitope variants not only within other dengue viruses but certain other flaviviruses. This cross-reactivity was dependent upon the presence of a five-amino acid core region, consistent with structural observations of class II MHC binding to TCR demonstrating that only a subset of residues within an epitope bound to a class II molecule are "read out" by the TCR. This capacity of CD4+ T cell clones to recognise a given epitope despite considerable variation between viruses may be of pathological significance, particularly in regions where related viruses co-circulate.
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