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Approach to discover T- and B-cell antigens of intracellular pathogens applied to the design of Chlamydia trachomatis vaccines

Finco, Oretta, Frigimelica, Elisabetta, Buricchi, Francesca, Petracca, Roberto, Galli, Giuliano, Faenzi, Elisa, Meoni, Eva, Bonci, Alessandra, Agnusdei, Mauro, Nardelli, Filomena, Bartolini, Erika, Scarselli, Maria, Caproni, Elena, Laera, Donatello, Zedda, Luisanna, Skibinski, David, Giovinazzi, Serena, Bastone, Riccardo, Ianni, Elvira, Cevenini, Roberto, Grandi, Guido, Grifantini, Renata
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 v.108 no.24 pp. 9969-9974
B-lymphocytes, CD4-positive T-lymphocytes, Chlamydia muridarum, Chlamydia trachomatis, adjuvants, animal models, antigens, cell-mediated immunity, flow cytometry, immune response, innate immunity, mice, pathogens, patients, proteins, splenocytes, vaccines
Natural immunity against obligate and/or facultative intracellular pathogens is usually mediated by both humoral and cellular immunity. The identification of those antigens stimulating both arms of the immune system is instrumental for vaccine discovery. Although high-throughput technologies have been applied for the discovery of antibody-inducing antigens, few examples of their application for T-cell antigens have been reported. We describe how the compilation of the immunome, here defined as the pool of immunogenic antigens inducing T- and B-cell responses in vivo, can lead to vaccine candidates against Chlamydia trachomatis. We selected 120 C. trachomatis proteins and assessed their immunogenicity using two parallel high-throughput approaches. Protein arrays were generated and screened with sera from C. trachomatis-infected patients to identify antibody-inducing antigens. Splenocytes from C. trachomatis-infected mice were stimulated with 79 proteins, and the frequency of antigen-specific CD4⁺/IFN-γ⁺ T cells was analyzed by flow cytometry. We identified 21 antibody-inducing antigens, 16 CD4⁺/IFN-γ⁺-inducing antigens, and five antigens eliciting both types of responses. Assessment of their protective activity in a mouse model of Chlamydia muridarum lung infection led to the identification of seven antigens conferring partial protection when administered with LTK63/CpG adjuvant. Protection was largely the result of cellular immunity as assessed by CD4⁺ T-cell depletion. The seven antigens provided robust additive protection when combined in four-antigen combinations. This study paves the way for the development of an effective anti-Chlamydia vaccine and provides a general approach for the discovery of vaccines against other intracellular pathogens.