Del Val, Margarita; Volkmer, Hansjürgen; Rothbard, Jonathan B.; Jonjic, Stipan; Messerle, Martin; Schickedanz, Jörg; Reddehase, Matthias J.; Koszinowski, Ulrich H.
Molecular basis for cytolytic T-lymphocyte recognition of the murine cytomegalovirus immediate-early protein pp89.
In: Journal of Virology, Vol. 62: pp. 3965-3972
The murine cytomegalovirus protein pp89, which is encoded by gene ieI, is a nonstructural regulatory protein expressed in the immediate-early phase of the viral replication cycle and located mainly in the nucleus of infected cells. Protection of BALB/c (H-2d) mice against a lethal murine cytomegalovirus challenge infection is achieved by vaccination with a recombinant vaccinia virus, MCMV-ieI-VAC, expressing pp89 as the only murine cytomegalovirus gene product. The protection is entirely mediated by T lymphocytes of the CD8+ subset. In the present report, we analyzed the molecular basis of the recognition of pp89 by BALB/c CD8+ cytolytic T lymphocytes. A series of internal and terminal deletion mutants of gene ieI was constructed and cloned in vaccinia virus, and the antigenicity and immunogenicity of the fragments of pp89 expressed by the recombinants were studied. A region of only one-sixth of the protein, from amino acids 154 to 249 and encoded by the fourth exon of gene ieI, was sufficient for both the recognition in vitro of the protein by pp89-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes and the induction in vivo of pp89-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes. By using synthetic peptides, the sequence between residues 161 and 179, which is located within the defined domain, was identified as an epitope presented to BALB/C cytotoxic T lymphocytes by the class I major histocompatibility antigen Ld.