Proteomics analysis reveals that structural proteins of the virion core and involved in gene expression are the main source for HLA class II ligands in vaccinia virus-infected cells

Lorente, E., et al. Proteomics analysis reveals that structural proteins of the virion core and involved in gene expression are the main source for HLA class II ligands in vaccinia virus-infected cells. Journal of Proteome Research. 10/1/2019.

Protective cellular and humoral immune responses require previous recognition of viral antigenic peptides complexed with HLA class II molecules on the surface of the antigen presenting cells. The HLA class II-restricted immune response is important for the control and the clearance of poxvirus infection including vaccinia virus (VACV), the vaccine used in the worldwide eradication of smallpox. In this study, a mass spectrometry analysis was used to identify VACV ligands bound to HLA-DR and -DP class II molecules present on the surface of VACV-infected cells. Twenty-six naturally processed viral ligands among the tens of thousands of cell peptides bound to HLA class II proteins were identified. These viral ligands arose from nineteen parental VACV proteins; A4, A5, A18, A35, A38, B5, B13, D1, D5, D7, D12, D13, E3, E8, H5, I2, I3, J2, and K2. The majority of these VACV proteins yielded one HLA ligand, and were generated mainly, but not exclusively, by the classical HLA class II antigen processing pathway. Medium-sized and abundant proteins from the virion core and/or involved in the viral gene expression were the major source of VACV ligands bound to HLA-DR and -DP class II molecules. These findings will help to understand the effectiveness of current poxvirus-based vaccines and will be important in the design of new ones.

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