Mice were immunized twice with a pool of five peptides selected among twenty 8-9-mer peptides for their ability to form stable complexes at 37°C with recombinant H-2K(b) (half-lives 10-15h). Vaccine-induced immunity of splenic CD8(+) T cells was studied in a 24h IFNγ Elispot assay. Surprisingly, IFNγ spot-formation was observed without addition of peptide to the assay culture at 3 weeks and 3 months after immunization. To clarify if IFNγ spot formation in the absence of peptide exposure ex vivo is caused by the peptide-pool per se, mice were immunized with single peptides. Three of the five peptides induced normal peptide immunity i.e. the specific T cell reactivity in the Elispot culture was strictly dependent on exposure to the immunizing peptide ex vivo. However, immunization with two of the peptides, a VSV- and a Mycobacterium-derived peptide, resulted in IFNγ spot formation without peptide in the Elispot culture. Immunization with a mixture of the VSV-peptide and a "normal" peptide also resulted in IFNγ spot formation without addition of peptide to the assay culture. Peptide-tetramer staining of CD8(+) T cells from mice immunized with a mixture of VSV-peptide and "normal" peptide showed peptide specific binding by CD8(+) T cells for both of the peptides. Thus, although immunization with certain peptides alone or in a mixture of peptides may result in IFNγ spot formation without peptide in the assay culture, specific immunity against the individual immunizing peptide in the mixture remains intact. Our data suggest that certain peptides exhibit sustained immunogenicity in vivo for prolonged periods of time.
Immunology Letters, 2013, Vol 151, Issue 1-2, p. 48-53