Enhancement of the T cell response to a mycobacterial peptide by conjugation to synthetic branched polypeptide

Katalin A. Wilkinson*, Ferenc Hudecz, H. Martin Vordermeier, Juraj Ivanyi, Robert J.wilkinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (SciVal)


A peptide-based approach towards improving the immunodiagnosis of, and vaccination against, tuberculosis faces the problems of MHC restriction of T cell recognition and the poor immunogenicity of peptides in the absence of adjuvant. We sought to compensate this by the use of synthetic branched polypeptides of the poly[Lys-(X(i)-DL-Ala(m))] type, containing a glutamic acid residue (EAK), and further modified either by succinylation (SucEAK) or acetylation (AcEAK). These carriers were conjugated to two permissively recognized peptides of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The 38p350-369-SucEAK conjugate enhanced IFN-γ production more than 13-fold (from 22.6 to 294 pg/ml, p = 0.001) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy subjects, and 8.7-fold (p = 0.012) in cells from tuberculosis patients. The effect was dependent on the carrier used and on covalent linkage of SucEAK to 38p350-369. An increased response occurred best in cells from subjects bearing at least one HLA-DR allele for which 38p350-369 had high binding affinity and required cellular processing of the conjugate as inhibitors (chloroquine and wortmannin) blocked the IFN-γ response. SucEAK conjugation of peptide 16p91-110 did not significantly increase IFN-γ production, indicating that the ability of conjugation to enhance the response was peptide structure dependent. These data indicate that the use of SucEAK polymer coupled with permissively recognized peptides could contribute to the development of an improved immunodiagnostic or vaccine reagent for tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2788-2796
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 1999


  • 38-kDa antigen
  • Epitope
  • Peptide
  • T lymphocyte
  • Tuberculosis
  • α-crystallin
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins/immunology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis/immunology
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Male
  • Alleles
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Peptides/immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes/drug effects
  • Vaccines, Synthetic/immunology
  • Immunoconjugates/metabolism


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