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Veit, Svenja; Jany, Sylvia; Fux, Robert; Sutter, Gerd; Volz, Asisa (2018): CD8+T Cells Responding to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Protein Delivered by Vaccinia Virus MVA in Mice. In: Viruses, Vol. 10, No. 12, 718
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Abstract

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a novel infectious agent causing severe respiratory disease and death in humans, was first described in 2012. Antibodies directed against the MERS-CoV spike (S) protein are thought to play a major role in controlling MERS-CoV infection and in mediating vaccine-induced protective immunity. In contrast, relatively little is known about the role of T cell responses and the antigenic targets of MERS-CoV that are recognized by CD8+ T cells. In this study, the highly conserved MERS-CoV nucleocapsid (N) protein served as a target immunogen to elicit MERS-CoV-specific cellular immune responses. Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA), a safety-tested strain of vaccinia virus for preclinical and clinical vaccine research, was used for generating MVA-MERS-N expressing recombinant N protein. Overlapping peptides spanning the whole MERS-CoV N polypeptide were used to identify major histocompatibility complex class I/II-restricted T cell responses in BALB/c mice immunized with MVA-MERS-N. We have identified a H2-d restricted decamer peptide epitope in the MERS-N protein with CD8+ T cell antigenicity. The identification of this epitope, and the availability of the MVA-MERS-N candidate vaccine, will help to evaluate MERS-N-specific immune responses and the potential immune correlates of vaccine-mediated protection in the appropriate murine models of MERS-CoV infection.