CD4+ T-cell responses play an important role in the immune control of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection and as such should be efficiently induced by vaccination. It follows that definition of HIV-1-derived peptides recognized by CD4+ T cells in association with HLA class II molecules will guide vaccine development. Here, we have characterized the fine specificity of CD4+ T cells elicited in human recipients of a candidate vaccine delivering conserved regions of HIV-1 proteins designated HIVconsv. The majority of these 19 most immunogenic regions contained novel epitopes, that is, epitopes not listed in the Los Alamos National Laboratory HIV Sequence Database, which were able in vitro to stimulate vaccinees' CD4+ T cells to proliferate and produce interferon-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α. Accumulation of HLA class II epitopes will eventually accelerate development of HIV-1 prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines.
The Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7DQ, UK.