Mapping of multiple HLA class II-restricted T-cell epitopes of the mycobacterial 70-kilodalton heat shock protein.
By combining a DNA subclone and synthetic-peptide approach, we mapped epitopes of the immunogenic mycobacterial 70-kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) recognized by human CD4+ T-cell clones and lines. In addition, we identified the respective HLA-DR molecules used in antigen presentation. The donor groups used were healthy persons immunized with killed Mycobacterium leprae and tuberculoid leprosy patients. The results show that the N-terminal part of the HSP70 molecule contains three different T-cell epitopes, of which two were presented by DR7 (amino acids [aa] 66 to 82 and 210 to 226) and one was presented by DR3 (aa 262 to 274). The C-terminal part contains one epitope (aa 413 to 424) presented by HLA-DR2. The C-terminal epitope shows extensive homology to the corresponding region of the human HSP70 sequence. All of the T-cell epitopes identified were presented by only one particular HLA-DR molecule. We also found that HLA-DR5 and DRw53 can present HSP70 to T cells, demonstrating the presence of additional epitopes not yet defined at the peptide level. On the basis of the donors used in this study, recognition of HSP70 at the epitope level seems to be ruled by the restriction elements expressed by the donor rather than by any difference in reactivity between healthy individuals and patients. In conclusion, mycobacterial HSP70 is relevant to subunit vaccine design since it contains a variety of T-cell epitopes presented in the context of multiple HLA-DR molecules.