Mechanisms of major histocompatibility complex class II-restricted processing and presentation of the V antigen of Yersinia pestis


Prof. John H. Robinson, Musculoskeletal Research Group, Clinical Medical Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK. Email:
Senior author: Prof. John H. Robinson


We mapped mouse CD4 T-cell epitopes located in three structurally distinct regions of the V antigen of Yersinia pestis. T-cell hybridomas specific for epitopes from each region were generated to study the mechanisms of processing and presentation of V antigen by bone-marrow-derived macrophages. All three epitopes required uptake and/or processing from V antigen as well as presentation to T cells by newly synthesized major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules over a time period of 3–4 hr. Sensitivity to inhibitors showed a dependence on low pH and cysteine, serine and metalloproteinase, but not aspartic proteinase, activity. The data indicate that immunodominant epitopes from all three structural regions of V antigen were presented preferentially by the classical MHC class II-restricted presentation pathway. The requirement for processing by the co-ordinated activity of several enzyme families is consistent with the buried location of the epitopes in each region of V antigen. Understanding the structure–function relationship of multiple immunodominant epitopes of candidate subunit vaccines is necessary to inform choice of adjuvants for vaccine delivery. In the case of V antigen, adjuvants designed to target it to lysosomes are likely to induce optimal responses to multiple protective T-cell epitopes.