Large-Scale Identification of T-Cell Epitopes Derived from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 for the Development of Peptide Vaccines against Coronavirus Disease 2019

Yipeng Ma, Fenglan Liu, Tong Lin, Lei Chen, Aixin Jiang, Geng Tian, Morten Nielsen, Mingjun Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to be a major public health challenge globally. The identification of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-derived T-cell epitopes is of critical importance for peptide vaccines or diagnostic tools of COVID-19. 

Methods: In this study, several SARS-CoV-2-derived human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-I binding peptides were predicted by NetMHCpan-4.1 and selected by Popcover to achieve pancoverage of the Chinese population. The top 5 ranked peptides derived from each protein of SARS-CoV-2 were then evaluated using peripheral blood mononuclear cells from unexposed individuals (negative for SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G). 

Results: Seven epitopes derived from 4 SARS-CoV-2 proteins were identified. It is interesting to note that most (5 of 7) of the SARS-CoV-2-derived peptides with predicted affinities for HLA-I molecules were identified as HLA-II-restricted epitopes and induced CD4+ T cell-dependent responses. These results complete missing pieces of pre-existing SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells and suggest that pre-existing T cells targeting all SARS-CoV-2-encoded proteins can be discovered in unexposed populations. 

Conclusions: In summary, in the current study, we present an alternative and effective strategy for the identification of T-cell epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 in healthy subjects, which may indicate an important role in the development of peptide vaccines for COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Volume224
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)956-966
ISSN0022-1899
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Pre-existing T cells
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T-cell epitopes
  • Uninfected individuals

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