CD4+ helper T cells play important roles in providing help to B cells, macrophages, and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, but also exhibit direct effector functions against a variety of different pathogens. In contrast to CD8+ T cells, CD4+ T cells typically exhibit broader specificities and undergo less clonal expansion during many types of viral infections, which often makes the identification of virus-specific CD4+ T cells technically challenging. In this study, we have generated recombinant vaccinia virus (VacV) vectors that target I-Ab–restricted peptides for MHC class II (MHC-II) presentation to activate CD4+ T cells in mice. Conjugating the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus immunodominant epitope GP61–80 to either LAMP1 to facilitate lysosomal targeting or to the MHC-II invariant chain (Ii) significantly increased the activation of Ag-specific CD4+ T cells in vivo. Immunization with VacV-Ii-GP61–80 activated endogenous Ag-specific CD4+ T cells that formed memory and rapidly re-expanded following heterologous challenge. Notably, immunization of mice with VacV expressing an MHC-II–restricted peptide from Leishmania species (PEPCK335–351) conjugated to either LAMP1 or Ii also generated Ag-specific memory CD4+ T cells that underwent robust secondary expansion following a visceral leishmaniasis infection, suggesting this approach could be used to generate Ag-specific memory CD4+ T cells against a variety of different pathogens. Overall, our data show that VacV vectors targeting peptides for MHC-II presentation is an effective strategy to activate Ag-specific CD4+ T cells in vivo and could be used to study Ag-specific effector and memory CD4+ T cell responses against a variety of viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. ImmunoHorizons, 2020, 4: 1–13.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy