Human population-based identification of CD4(+) T-cell peptide epitope determinants

J Immunol Methods. 2003 Oct 1;281(1-2):95-108. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1759(03)00279-5.


A human cell-based method to identify functional CD4(+) T-cell epitopes in any protein has been developed. Proteins are tested as synthetic 15-mer peptides offset by three amino acids. Percent responses within a large donor population are tabulated for each peptide in the set. Peptide epitope regions are designated by difference in response frequency from the overall background response rate for the compiled dataset. Epitope peptide responses are reproducible, with a median coefficient of variance of 21% when tested on multiple random-donor sets. The overall average response rate within the dataset increases with increasing putative human population antigenic exposure to a given protein. The background rate was high for HPV16 E6, and was low for human-derived cytokine proteins. The assay identified recall epitope regions within the donor population for the protein staphylokinase. For an industrial protease with minimal presumed population exposure, immunodominant epitope peptides were identified that were found to bind promiscuously to many HLA class II molecules in vitro. The peptide epitope regions identified in presumably unexposed donors represent a subset of the total recall epitopes. Finally, as a negative control, the assay found no peptide epitope regions in human beta2-microglobulin. This method identifies functional CD4(+) T-cell epitopes in any protein without pre-selection for HLA class II, suggests whether a donor population is pre-exposed to a protein of interest, and does not require sensitized donors for in vitro testing.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Donors
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Endopeptidases / immunology
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Endopeptidases