Enhanced detection of human immunodeficiency virus type 1-specific T-cell responses to highly variable regions by using peptides based on autologous virus sequences

J Virol. 2003 Jul;77(13):7330-40. doi: 10.1128/jvi.77.13.7330-7340.2003.


The antigenic diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) represents a significant challenge for vaccine design as well as the comprehensive assessment of HIV-1-specific immune responses in infected persons. In this study we assessed the impact of antigen variability on the characterization of HIV-1-specific T-cell responses by using an HIV-1 database to determine the sequence variability at each position in all expressed HIV-1 proteins and a comprehensive data set of CD8 T-cell responses to a reference strain of HIV-1 in infected persons. Gamma interferon Elispot analysis of HIV-1 clade B-specific T-cell responses to 504 overlapping peptides spanning the entire expressed HIV-1 genome derived from 57 infected subjects demonstrated that the average amino acid variability within a peptide (entropy) was inversely correlated to the measured frequency at which the peptide was recognized (P = 6 x 10(-7)). Subsequent studies in six persons to assess T-cell responses against p24 Gag, Tat, and Vpr peptides based on autologous virus sequences demonstrated that 29% (12 of 42) of targeted peptides were only detected with peptides representing the autologous virus strain compared to the HIV-1 clade B consensus sequence. The use of autologous peptides also allowed the detection of significantly stronger HIV-1-specific T-cell responses in the more variable regulatory and accessory HIV-1 proteins Tat and Vpr (P = 0.007). Taken together, these data indicate that accurate assessment of T-cell responses directed against the more variable regulatory and accessory HIV-1 proteins requires reagents based on autologous virus sequences. They also demonstrate that CD8 T-cell responses to the variable HIV-1 proteins are more common than previously reported.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / immunology


  • Peptides
  • Viral Proteins