To determine the degree of HIV-1-specific cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte (CTL) cross-responses to the clade B and C consensus sequences at the single peptide level. We assessed CTL responses in 46 HIV-1 clade B chronically infected individuals using an interferon-γ Elispot assay with a total of 826 overlapping peptides spanning HIV-1clade B and C consensus sequences. In general, 583 peptides were recognized by HIV-1-specific T cells in the study subjects (292 clade B, 291 clade C respectively), of which 204 peptides in both clades were recognized simultaneously. The HIV-1-specific CTL responses to both clade peptides contributed 54.23% (954/1759) to the total responses. No significant difference was observed between the overall magnitude or frequency of CTL responses to clade B proteins and those to clade C proteins. According to the profiles of CTL magnitude and CTL frequency, the top 44 and 35 synthetic peptides were identified as immunodominant regions in the clade B and C consensus sequences respectively and 27 corresponding peptides in two immunodominant regions were cross-reactive. These peptides with cross-reactivity had a significantly higher ability to elicit CTL responses (P < 0.01) and preferentially had a trend of lower entropy and higher inter-clade homology. A wide degree of cross-clade reactivity of HIV-1-specific T cells exist in clade B and clade C variants. Most of immunodominant peptides with cross-reactivity are vigorous to elicit CTL responses and preferentially be conservative. This result may make future HIV-1 vaccines including multiple copies of CTL epitopes in these immunodominant peptides effective for this population.
Keywords: HIV-1, CD8 T cell response, Inter-clade cross-reactivity
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