Hierarchy Among Multiple H-2B-Restricted Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitopes Within Simian Virus 40 T Antigen

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Simian virus 40 large tumor (T) antigen contains three H-2Db-restricted (I, II/III, and V) and one H-2Kb-restricted (IV) cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. We demonstrate that a hierarchy exists among these CTL epitopes, since vigorous CTL responses against epitopes I, II/III, and IV are detected following immunization of H-2b mice with syngeneic, T-antigen- expressing cells. By contrast, a weak CTL response against the H-2Db- restricted epitope V was detected only following immunization of H-2b mice with epitope loss variant B6/K-3,1,4 cells, which have lost expression of CTL epitopes I, II/III, and IV. Limiting-dilution analysis confirmed that the lack of epitope V-specific CTL activity in bulk culture splenocytes correlated with inefficient expansion and priming of epitope V-specific CTL precursors in vivo. We examined whether defined genetic alterations of T antigen might improve processing and presentation of epitope V to the epitope V-specific CTL clone Y-5 in vitro and/or overcome the recessive nature of epitope V in vivo. Deletion of the H-2Db-restricted epitopes I and II/III from T antigen did not increase target cell lysis by epitope V-specific CTL clones in vitro. The amino acid sequence SMIKNLEYM, which specifies an optimized H-2Db binding motif and was found to induce CTL in H-2b mice, did not further reduce epitope V presentation in vitro when inserted within T antigen. Epitope V-containing T-antigen derivatives which retained epitopes I and II/III or epitope IV did not induce epitope V-specific CTL in vivo. T- antigen derivatives in which epitope V replaced epitope I failed to induce epitope V-specific CTL. Recognition of epitope V-H-2Db complexes by multiple independently derived epitope V-specific CTL clones was rapidly and dramatically reduced by incubation of target cells in the presence of brefeldin A compared with the recognition of the other T-antigen CTL epitopes by epitope specific CTL, suggesting that the epitope V-H-2Db complexes either are labile or are present at the cell surface at reduced levels. Our results suggest that processing and presentation of epitope V is not dramatically altered (reduced) by the presence of immunodominant CTL epitopes in T antigen and that the immunorecessive nature of epitope V is not determined by amino acids which flank its native location within simian virus 40 T antigen.

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