Methods: In total, 110 overlapping synthetic peptides of HRV-A (genotype HRV-34) and HRV-C (genotype QPM) were purchased from Mimotopes (Vic, Australia) covering the entire VP1 protein of both genotypes. T-cell proliferation was measured by 3H-thymidine incorporation. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated from the blood of 20 adults from the general population of Perth (WA), with no evidence of current respiratory illness. The PBMCs were cultured in AIM-V media with the individual peptides of HRV-A and HRV-C in triplicate. PHA and PPD were included as positive controls and negative controls contained only media. 3H-thymidine incorporation was measured after a 6-day culture and a stimulation index of greater than 2 (calculated by the mean of wells containing antigen divided by the mean of the negative control wells) was considered a positive lymphoproliferative response. Variation on replicate cultures was lower than 20%.
Results: We have identified four species-specific peptides for HRV-QPM and three for HRV-34 that triggered T-cell proliferation in more than 50% of the tested subjects. Four pairs of cross-reactive peptides were identified for HRV-A and HRV-C that stimulated the cells of more than 40% of the subjects tested.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to map T-cell epitopes in a genotype of HRV-C and also the first to map the entire HRV VP1 protein. Future HLA typing and in silico studies for other HRV-A and HRV-C genotypes based on the reactive peptides will be conducted. These findings will help to identify differences in the immune recognition of the two most prevalent HRV species and are valuable tools for future vaccine development.