Bacteria modulate the CD8+ T cell epitope repertoire of host Cytosol-Exposed proteins to manipulate the host immune response

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The main adaptive immune response to bacteria is mediated by B cells and CD4+ T-cells. However, some bacterial proteins reach the cytosol of host cells and are exposed to the host CD8+ T-cells response. Both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria can translocate proteins to the cytosol through type III and IV secretion and ESX-1 systems, respectively. The translocated proteins are often essential for the bacterium survival. Once injected, these proteins can be degraded and presented on MHC-I molecules to CD8+ T-cells. The CD8+ T-cells, in turn, can induce cell death and destroy the bacteria's habitat. In viruses, escape mutations arise to avoid this detection. The accumulation of escape mutations in bacteria has never been systematically studied. We show for the first time that such mutations are systematically present in most bacteria tested. We combine multiple bioinformatic algorithms to compute CD8+ T-cell epitope libraries of bacteria with secretion systems that translocate proteins to the host cytosol. In all bacteria tested, proteins not translocated to the cytosol show no escape mutations in their CD8+ T-cell epitopes. However, proteins translocated to the cytosol show clear escape mutations and have low epitope densities for most tested HLA alleles. The low epitope densities suggest that bacteria, like viruses, are evolutionarily selected to ensure their survival in the presence of CD8+ T-cells. In contrast with most other translocated proteins examined, Pseudomonas aeruginosa's ExoU, which ultimately induces host cell death, was found to have high epitope density. This finding suggests a novel mechanism for the manipulation of CD8+ T-cells by pathogens. The ExoU effector may have evolved to maintain high epitope density enabling it to efficiently induce CD8+ T-cell mediated cell death. These results were tested using multiple epitope prediction algorithms, and were found to be consistent for most proteins tested.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1002220
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


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