The use of synthetic antigen sequences allows propagation in vitro of T cell lines and clones specific for rare antigens, or for individual epitopes. In the present study we investigated the extent of similarity of the epitope repertoire of CD4+ T cell line specific for the antigen tetanus toxin (TTX), propagated with the complete molecule of tetanus toxoid (TTD), and with the synthetic TTX peptides. We propagated from two healthy subjects CD4+ T cell lines specific for TTD, by cycles of stimulation in vitro with TTD or with pools of overlapping synthetic peptides, 20 residues long and overlapping by five residues, corresponding to all or part of the tetanus toxin (TTX) sequence. One pool corresponded to the complete TTX sequence (peptide pool). Two other pools corresponded to residues 1-305 of the TTX light chain and 476-780 of the TTX heavy chain (peptide minipools). The peptide pool-propagated lines recognized TTD vigorously, at levels comparable with those of the TTD-propagated lines. They recognized several peptides, most of which were also recognized by the TTD-propagated line from the same subject. They also recognized to a low extent a few peptides not recognized by the corresponding TTD-propagated line, which might contain cryptic epitopes. The TTD-propagated lines recognized also several peptides that did not elicit a detectable response by the lines propagated with the complete peptide pool. The peptide minipool propagated lines recognized most of the peptides recognized by the TTD-propagated lines. They also recognized several peptides that did not elicit a measurable response of the TTD-propagated line from the same subject, which might contain cryptic epitopes. Very few peptides recognized by the TTD-propagated line did not evoke a response from the peptide minipool propagated lines. To verify that the response to the TTD molecule of the lines propagated with the peptide pools reflected the response of clones recognizing different epitopes produced upon in vitro processing of the TTD molecule, we propagated from each of the two subjects CD4+ T cell lines by stimulation with individual peptide recognized by the TTD-specific lines of that subject (13 peptide-specific lines from subject #1, and 15 from subject #2). All lines responded to the presence of TTD to an extent comparable to the response induced by the same concentration of the relevant peptide, demonstrating that propagation by synthetic epitope sequences allows expansion of T cell clones specific for epitopes which result from processing of the complete TTD molecule. Therefore, whereas the use of very large pools of synthetic antigen peptides for propagation of antigen specific human CD4+ cell lines might lead to loss of clones recognizing less immunogenic sequence regions, peptide pools comprising a relatively limited number of synthetic sequences allow propagation of the majority of the antigen specific T cell clones. The use of peptide pools, and especially of limited peptide pools, results in propagation of polyclonal T cell lines having a more diverse repertoire than the lines propagated by stimulation with the complete antigen molecule. The T clones propagated by the use of short peptide sequences, which are not expanded when the complete antigen molecule is used, may recognize poorly processed, cryptic epitopes. This approach may be adopted to propagate and detect minor clonal populations, recognizing less immunogenic parts of the antigen.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by the NINCDS Grant NS23919 and by a Research Grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (to B.M.C.-F.).
- CD4 T cell lines
- Synthetic peptides
- T cell epitopes