To develop therapeutic and vaccine strategies to combat HIV-1, the cause of AIDS, it is essential to understand the cell-mediated immune response to this agent. To pursue this goal, murine model systems for immunization, isolation of antigen-specific T cells, and in vitro analysis of T cells specific for HIV-1 proteins have been devised. Restimulation in vitro of spleen cells from H-2d mice immunized with recombinant vaccinia virus containing the HIV-1 (IIIB) gp160 gene elicited CD8+ cytolytic T cells specific for amino acids 315-329. This same procedure also was successful in generating CTL specific for the HIV-1 (MN) gp160 and HIV (RF) gp160. All responses were found in H-2d mice, and the CTL elicited were H-2Dd restricted. The determinant involved in the MN and RF responses corresponded to the same region as that involved in the IIIB response, yet the CTL produced were highly specific and did not cross-react on target cells incubated with the different peptides. To understand the relationship among these and other HIV isolates in terms of CTL specificity, variant peptides representing either natural isolates or synthetic combinations of residues from the natural sequences were prepared and used as immunogens or target antigens. These studies showed that the CTL responses to HIV fall into groups related by the chemical nature of key epitopic residues in the inducing peptide. Further, alternation in the peptide structure between immunization and boost broadened the CTL response and suggests a strategy for immunization in man. Related structure-function studies on a class II-restricted determinant have revealed how a small subset of residues controls binding to MHC molecules and how additional residues regulate the epitopic structure necessary for T cell recognition.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Intramural Research (Z01)
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