Early and robust T cell responses have been associated with survival from Lassa fever (LF), but the Lassa virus-specific memory responses have not been well characterized. Regions within the virus surface glycoprotein (GPC) and nucleoprotein (NP) are the main targets of the Lassa virus-specific T cell responses, but, to date, only a few T cell epitopes within these proteins have been identified. We identified GPC and NP regions containing T cell epitopes and HLA haplotypes from LF survivors and used predictive HLA-binding algorithms to identify putative epitopes, which were then experimentally tested using autologous survivor samples. We identified 12 CD8-positive (CD8+) T cell epitopes, including epitopes common to both Nigerian and Sierra Leonean survivors. These data should be useful for the identification of dominant Lassa virus-specific T cell responses in Lassa fever survivors and vaccinated individuals as well as for designing vaccines that elicit cell-mediated immunity.IMPORTANCE The high morbidity and mortality associated with clinical cases of Lassa fever, together with the lack of licensed vaccines and limited and partially effective interventions, make Lassa virus (LASV) an important health concern in its regions of endemicity in West Africa. Previous infection with LASV protects from disease after subsequent exposure, providing a framework for designing vaccines to elicit similar protective immunity. Multiple major lineages of LASV circulate in West Africa, and therefore, ideal vaccine candidates should elicit immunity to all lineages. We therefore sought to identify common T cell epitopes between Lassa fever survivors from Sierra Leone and Nigeria, where distinct lineages circulate. We identified three such epitopes derived from highly conserved regions within LASV proteins. In this process, we also identified nine other T cell epitopes. These data should help in the design of an effective pan-LASV vaccine.
Keywords: Lassa fever; Lassa virus; arenavirus; epitopes; memory T cells.
Copyright © 2020 Sakabe et al.