HLA-E: exploiting pathogen-host interactions for vaccine development
Sharpe HR., Bowyer G., Brackenridge S., Lambe T.
Summary Viruses, when used as vectors for vaccine antigen delivery, can induce strong cellular and humoral responses against target epitopes. Recent work by Hansen et al. describes the use of a cytomegalovirus-vectored vaccine, which is able to generate a stable effector-memory T cell population at the sites of vaccination in rhesus macaques. This vaccine, targeted towards multiple epitopes in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), did not induce classical CD8+ T cells. However, non-canonical CD8+ T cell induction occurred via major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II and MHC-E. The MHC-E-restricted T cells could recognize broad epitopes across the SIV peptides, and conferred protection against viral challenge to 55% of vaccinated macaques. The human homologue, human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-E, is now being targeted as a new avenue for vaccine development. In humans, HLA-E is an unusually oligomorphic class Ib MHC molecule, in comparison to highly polymorphic MHC class Ia. Whereas MHC class Ia presents peptides derived from pathogens to T cells, HLA-E classically binds defined leader peptides from class Ia MHC peptides and down-regulates NK cell cytolytic activity when presented on the cell surface. HLA-E can also restrict non-canonical CD8+ T cells during natural infection with various pathogens, although the extent to which they are involved in pathogen control is mostly unknown. In this review, an overview is provided of HLA-E and its ability to interact with NK cells and non-canonical T cells. Also discussed are the unforeseen beneficial effects of vaccination, including trained immunity of NK cells from bacille Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccination, and the broad restriction of non-canonical CD8+ T cells by cytomegalovirus (CMV)-vectored vaccines in pre-clinical trials.