The apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii can cause severe disease in immunocompromised individuals. Previous studies in mice have focused largely on CD8 + T cells, and the role of CD4 T cells is relatively unexplored. Here, we show that immunization of the C57BL/6 strain of mice, in which the immunodominant CD8 T cell response to the parasite dense-granule protein GRA6 cannot be generated, leads to a prominent CD4 T cell response. To identify the CD4 T cell-stimulating antigens, we generated a T. gondii-specific, lacZ-inducible, CD4 T cell hybridoma and used it as a probe to screen a T. gondii cDNA library. We isolated a cDNA encoding a protein of unknown function that we call CD4Ag28m and identified the minimal peptide, AS15, which was presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules to the CD4 T cells. Immunization of mice with the AS15 peptide provided significant protection against subsequent parasite challenge, resulting in a lower parasite burden in the brain. Our findings identify the first CD4 T cell-stimulating peptide that can confer protection against toxoplasmosis and provide an important tool for the study of CD4 T cell responses and the design of effective vaccines against the parasite.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases