Identification of SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid and Spike T-Cell Epitopes for Assessing T-Cell Immunity
Published: 24 February 2021
Developing optimal T-cell response assays to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is critical for measuring the duration of immunity to this disease and assessing the efficacy of vaccine candidates. These assays need to target conserved regions of SARS-CoV-2 global variants and avoid cross-reactivity to seasonal human coronaviruses. To contribute to this effort, we employed an in silico immunoinformatics analysis pipeline to identify immunogenic peptides resulting from conserved and highly networked regions with topological importance from the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid and spike proteins. A total of 57 highly networked T-cell epitopes that are conserved across geographic viral variants were identified from these viral proteins, with a binding potential to diverse HLA alleles and 80 to 100% global population coverage. Importantly, 18 of these T-cell epitope derived peptides had limited homology to seasonal human coronaviruses making them promising candidates for SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell immunity assays. Moreover, two of the NC-derived peptides elicited effector/polyfunctional responses of CD8+ T cells derived from SARS-CoV-2 convalescent patients.
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