Hypervariable epitope construct: A synthetic immunogen that overcomes MHC restriction of antigen presentation

Debra Meyer, Jose V Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Vaccines are not universal in their ability to induce favorable immune responses in all individuals because the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules needed for presentation of vaccine components to T cells are limited in the peptides they recognize and bind. A heterogeneous cocktail of related peptides synthesized simultaneously and representing amino acids 414- 434 of the SIV envelope protein was used to induce immune responses stronger than those induced by a single T cell peptide synthesized conventionally and representing the same region of the viral envelope. The heterogeneous peptide mixture called a hypervariable epitope construct (HEC) was capable of overcoming MHC restriction in peptide presentation in four different inbred mouse strains, including a strain that was a poor responder to the AA 414-434 single sequence peptide (SSP). HEC induced proliferation responses 15 times better than those induced by SSP. Antibodies elicited by HEC but not SSP immunization effectively bind viral antigen. The 414-434 HEC and the 414-434 SSP were also tested for their ability to upregulate the expression of MHC class I molecules on the surface of the mutant RMA-S murine cell line. Surface display of MHC molecules was measured by confocal microscopy followed by calculation of fluorescence intensity of images. HECs upregulated expression of MHC molecules 30% more than SSP peptides. Our findings suggest that HEC cocktails could be effective components of subunit vaccines to help overcome the unresponsiveness observed in outbred animals and in humans as a result of MHC-restricted antigen presentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-637
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Immunology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • AIDS
  • HEC
  • MHC restriction
  • Peptide immunogen
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology

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