ERAP1 allotypes shape the epitope repertoire of virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses in acute hepatitis C virus infection

J Hepatol. 2019 Jun;70(6):1072-1081. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.01.034. Epub 2019 Feb 13.


Background & aims: Endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 (ERAP1) polymorphisms are linked with human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I-associated autoinflammatory disorders, including ankylosing spondylitis and Behçet's disease. Disease-associated ERAP1 allotypes exhibit distinct functional properties, but it remains unclear how differential peptide trimming in vivo affects the repertoire of epitopes presented to CD8+ T cells. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of ERAP1 allotypes on the virus-specific CD8+ T cell epitope repertoire in an HLA-B*27:05+ individual with acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Methods: We performed genetic and functional analyses of ERAP1 allotypes and characterized the HCV-specific CD8+ T cell repertoire at the level of fine epitope specificity and HLA class I restriction, in a patient who had acquired an HCV genotype 1a infection through a needle-stick injury.

Results: Two hypoactive allotypic variants of ERAP1 were identified in an individual with acute HCV infection. The associated repertoire of virus-derived epitopes recognized by CD8+ T cells was uncommon in a couple of respects. Firstly, reactivity was directed away from classically immunodominant epitopes, preferentially targeting either novel or subdominant epitopes. Secondly, reactivity was biased towards longer epitopes (10-11-mers). Despite the patient exhibiting favorable prognostic indicators, these atypical immune responses failed to clear the virus and the patient developed persistent low-level infection with HCV.

Conclusions: ERAP1 allotypes modify the virus-specific CD8+ T cell epitope repertoire in vivo, leading to altered immunodominance patterns that may contribute to the failure of antiviral immunity after infection with HCV.

Lay summary: Endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 (ERAP1) plays a key role in antigen presentation. Genetic variants of ERAP1 (leading to distinct allotypes) are linked with specific autoinflammatory disorders, such as ankylosing spondylitis and Behçet's disease. We found that ERAP1 allotypes modified the repertoire of virus-specific CD8+ T cell epitopes in a patient with hepatitis C virus, leading to an altered pattern of immunodominance that may have contributed to the failure of antiviral immunity in this patient.

Keywords: ERAP1; Epitope repertoire; HLA-B*27; Hepatitis C virus; T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aminopeptidases / genetics*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • Hepacivirus / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens / genetics*


  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Aminopeptidases
  • ERAP1 protein, human