In the present review, we summarize work from our as well as other groups related to the characterization of bacterial T cell epitopes, with a specific focus on two important pathogens, namely, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), and Bordetella pertussis (BP), the bacterium that causes whooping cough. Both bacteria and their associated diseases are of large societal significance. Although vaccines exist for both pathogens, their efficacy is incomplete. It is widely thought that defects and/or alteration in T cell compartments are associated with limited vaccine effectiveness. As discussed below, a full genome-wide map was performed in the case of Mtb. For BP, our focus has thus far been on the antigens contained in the acellular vaccine; a full genome-wide screen is in the planning stage. Nevertheless, the sum-total of the results in the two different bacterial systems allows us to exemplify approaches and techniques that we believe are generally applicable to the mapping and characterization of human immune responses to bacterial pathogens. Finally, we add, as a disclaimer, that this review by design is focused on the work produced by our laboratory as an illustration of approaches to the study of T cell responses to Mtb and BP, and is not meant to be comprehensive, nor to detract from the excellent work performed by many other groups.
Keywords: Bordetella pertussis; HLA; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; T cell; bacteria; epitope.