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Burkholderia pseudomallei (Bp) is an environmental bacterial pathogen that causes potentially lethal sepsis in susceptible individuals and is considered a Category B, Tier-1 biothreat agent. As such, it is crucial to gain an improved understanding of protective immunity and potential vaccine candidates. The nature of immune correlates dictating why most exposed individuals in endemic regions undergo asymptomatic seroconversion while others succumb to life-threatening sepsis is largely uncharted. Bp seroreactive, immunogenic proteins have previously been identified by antigen microarray. We here set out to conduct an analysis of T-cell recognition of the Bp immunome using serodominant antigens represented in the original antigen microarray, examining immune correlates of disease in healthy seropositive individuals and those with acute disease or in convalescence. By screening a library of 739 overlapping peptides representing the sequences of 20 different Bp antigens, we aimed to define immune correlates of protection at the level of immunoprevalent T-cell epitopes. Responses to a large number of epitopes were common in healthy seropositive individuals: we found remarkably broad responsiveness to Bp epitopes, with 235 of 739 peptides recognized by ≥80% of all tested donors. The cumulative response to Bp epitopes in healthy, seropositive, donors from this endemic region were of the order of thousands of spot forming cells per million cells, making Bp recognition a significant component of the T-cell repertoire. Noteworthy among our findings, analysis revealed 10 highly immunoprevalent T-cell epitopes, able to induce Bp-specific IFNγ responses that were high in responding T-cell frequency within the repertoire, and also common across individuals with different human leukocyte antigen types. Acute melioidosis patients showed poor T-cell responses to the immunoprevalent epitopes, but acquired responsiveness following recovery from infection. Our findings suggest that a large repertoire of CD4 T cells, high in frequency and with broad coverage of antigens and epitopes, is important in controlling Bp infection. This offers an attractive potential strategy for subunit or epitope-based vaccines.

Original publication

DOI

10.3389/fimmu.2018.00484

Type

Journal article

Journal

Front Immunol

Publication Date

2018

Volume

9

Keywords

Burkholderia pseudomallei, IFNγ, T cell, epitope, melioidosis