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In silico and in vivo analysis of Toxoplasma gondii epitopes by correlating survival data with peptide-MHC-I binding affinities

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BACKGROUND: Protein antigens comprising peptide motifs with high binding affinity to major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecules are expected to induce a stronger cytotoxic T-lymphocyte response and thus provide better protection against infection with microorganisms where cytotoxic T-cells are the main effector arm of the immune system.

METHODS: Data on cyst formation and survival were extracted from past studies on the DNA immunization of mice with plasmids coding for Toxoplasma gondii antigens. From in silico analyses of the vaccine antigens, the correlation was tested between the predicted affinity for MHC-I molecules of the vaccine peptides and the survival of immunized mice after challenge with T. gondii. ELISPOT analysis was used for the experimental testing of peptide immunogenicity.

RESULTS: Predictions for the Db MHC-I molecule produced a strong, negative correlation between survival and the dissociation constant of vaccine-derived peptides. The in silico analyses of nine T. gondii antigens identified peptides with a predicted dissociation constant in the interval from 10nM to 40μM. ELISPOT assays with splenocytes from T. gondii-infected mice further supported the importance of the peptide affinity for MHC-I.

CONCLUSIONS: In silico analysis clearly helped the search for protective vaccine antigens. The ELISPOT analysis confirmed that the predicted T-cell epitopes were immunogenic by their ability to release interferon gamma in spleen cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2016

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