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Complexity of type-specific 56 kDa antigen CD4 T-cell epitopes of Orientia tsutsugamushi strains causing scrub typhus in India
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  • Pubmed ID:
    29698425
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC5919512
  • Description:
    Orientia tsutsugamushi (Ots) is an obligate, intracellular, mite-transmitted human pathogen which causes scrub typhus. Understanding the diversity of Ots antigens is essential for designing specific diagnostic assays and efficient vaccines. The protective immunodominant type-specific 56 kDa antigen (TSA) of Ots varies locally and across its geographic distribution. TSA contains four hypervariable domains. We bioinformatically analyzed 345 partial sequences of TSA available from India, most of which contain only the three variable domains (VDI-III) and three spacer conserved domains (SVDI, SVDII/III, SVDIII). The total number (152) of antigenic types (amino acid variants) varied from 14-36 in the six domains of TSA that we studied. Notably, 55% (787/1435) of the predicted CD4 T-cell epitopes (TCEs) from all the six domains had high binding affinities (HBA) to at least one of the prevalent Indian human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles. A surprisingly high proportion (61%) of such TCEs were from spacer domains; indeed 100% of the CD4 TCEs in the SVDI were HBA. TSA sequences from India had more antigenic types (AT) than TSA from Korea. Overall, >90% of predicted CD4 TCEs from spacer domains were predicted to have HBA against one or more prevalent HLA types from Indian, Korean, Asia-Pacific region or global population data sets, while only <50% of CD4 TCEs in variable domains exhibited such HBA. The phylogenetically and immunologically important amino acids in the conserved spacer domains were identified. Our results suggest that the conserved spacer domains are predicted to be functionally more important than previously appreciated in immune responses to Ots infections. Changes occurring at the TCE level of TSA may contribute to the wide range of pathogenicity of Ots in humans and mouse models. CD4 T-cell functional experiments are needed to assess the immunological significance of these HBA spacer domains and their role in clearance of Ots from Indian patients.

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