In Silico Guided Discovery of Novel Class I and II Epitopes Recognized by T Cells from Chagas' Disease Patients.
T cell-mediated immune response plays a crucial role in controlling infection and parasite burden, but it is also involved in the clinical onset and progression of chronic Chagas' disease. Therefore, the study of T cells is central to the understanding of the immune response against the parasite and its implications for the infected organism. The complexity of the parasite-host interactions hampers the identification and characterization of T cell-activating epitopes. We approached this issue by combining in silico and in vitro methods to interrogate patients' T cells specificity. Fifty peptides predicted to bind a broad range of class I and II HLA molecules were selected for in vitro screening against PBMC samples from a cohort of chronic Chagas' disease patients, using IFN-γ secretion as a readout. Seven of these peptides were shown to activate this type of T cell response, and four out of these contain class I and II epitopes that, to our knowledge, are first described in this study. The remaining three contain sequences that had been previously demonstrated to induce CD8 T cell response in Chagas' disease patients, or bind HLA-A*02:01, but are, in this study, demonstrated to engage CD4 T cells. We also assessed the degree of differentiation of activated T cells and looked into the HLA variants that might restrict the recognition of these peptides in the context of human infection.