Differential Recognition of Influenza A Viruses by M1(58-66) Epitope-Specific CD8(+) T Cells Is Determined by Extraepitopic Amino Acid Residues

Carolien Sandt, Joost Kreijtz, Tiny Mieras, Nella Nieuwkoop, Monique Spronken, David van de Vijver, Ron Fouchier, Ab Osterhaus, Guus Rimmelzwaan

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Natural influenza A virus infections elicit both virus-specific antibody and CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell responses. Influenza A virus-specific CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) contribute to clearance of influenza virus infections. Viral CTL epitopes can display variation, allowing influenza A viruses to evade recognition by epitope-specific CTLs. Due to functional constraints, some epitopes, like the immunodominant HLA-A(star)0201-restricted matrix protein 1 (M1(58-66)) epitope, are highly conserved between influenza A viruses regardless of their subtype or host species of origin. We hypothesized that human influenza A viruses evade recognition of this epitope by impairing antigen processing and presentation by extraepitopic amino acid substitutions. Activation of specific T cells was used as an indication of antigen presentation. Here, we show that the M1(58-66) epitope in the M1 protein derived from human influenza A virus was poorly recognized compared to the M1 protein derived from avian influenza A virus. Furthermore, we demonstrate that naturally occurring variations at extraepitopic amino acid residues affect CD8(+) T cell recognition of the M1(58-66) epitope. These data indicate that human influenza A viruses can impair recognition by M1(58-66)-specific CTLs while retaining the conserved amino acid sequence of the epitope, which may represent a yet-unknown immune evasion strategy for influenza A viruses. This difference in recognition may have implications for the viral replication kinetics in HLA-A(star)0201 individuals and spread of influenza A viruses in the human population. The findings may aid the rational design of universal influenza vaccines that aim at the induction of cross-reactive virus-specific CTL responses. IMPORTANCE Influenza viruses are an important cause of acute respiratory tract infections. Natural influenza A virus infections elicit both humoral and cellular immunity. CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are directed predominantly against conserved internal proteins and confer cross-protection, even against influenza A viruses of various subtypes. In some CTL epitopes, mutations occur that allow influenza A viruses to evade recognition by CTLs. However, the immunodominant HLA-A(star)0201-restricted M1(58-66) epitope does not tolerate mutations without loss of viral fitness. Here, we describe naturally occurring variations in amino acid residues outside the M1(58-66) epitope that influence the recognition of the epitope. These results provide novel in-sights into the epidemiology of influenza A viruses and their pathogenicity and may aid rational design of vaccines that aim at the induction of CTL responses.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1009-1022
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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  • EMC MM-04-27-01

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