A Mycobacterium leprae-specific human T cell epitope cross-reactive with an HLA-DR2 peptide

Science  14 Oct 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4876, pp. 259-261
DOI: 10.1126/science.2459778


Mycobacterium leprae induces T cell reactivity and protective immunity in the majority of exposed individuals, but the minority that develop leprosy exhibit various types of immunopathology. Thus, the definition of epitopes on M. leprae antigens that are recognized by T cells from different individuals might result in the development of an effective vaccine against leprosy. A sequence from the 65-kD protein of this organism was recognized by two HLA-DR2-restricted, M. leprae-specific helper T cell clones that were derived from a tuberculoid leprosy patient. Synthetic peptides were used to define this epitope as Leu-Gln-Ala-Ala-Pro-Ala-Leu-Asp-Lys-Leu. A similar peptide that was derived from the third hypervariable region of the HLA-DR2 chain, Glu-Gln-Ala-Arg-Ala-Ala-Val-Asp-Thr-Tyr, also activated the same clones. The unexpected cross-reactivity of this M. leprae-specific DR2-restricted T cell epitope with a DR2 peptide may have to be considered in the design of subunit vaccines against leprosy.