CD4 T cell responses to Theileria parva in immune cattle recognize a diverse set of parasite antigens presented on the surface of infected lymphoblasts

10 Sep 2021
Morrison WI, Aguado A, Sheldrake TA, Palmateer NC, Ifeonu OO, Tretina K, Parsons K, Fenoy E, Connelley T, Nielsen M and Silva JC

Parasite-specific CD8 T cell responses play a key role in mediating immunity against Theileria parva in cattle (Bos taurus), and there is evidence that efficient induction of these responses requires CD4 T cell responses. However, information on the antigenic specificity of the CD4 T cell response is lacking. The current study used a high-throughput system for Ag identification using CD4 T cells from immune animals to screen a library of ∼40,000 synthetic peptides representing 499 T. parva gene products. Use of CD4 T cells from 12 immune cattle, representing 12 MHC class II types, identified 26 Ags. Unlike CD8 T cell responses, which are focused on a few dominant Ags, multiple Ags were recognized by CD4 T cell responses of individual animals. The Ags had diverse properties, but included proteins encoded by two multimember gene families: five haloacid dehalogenases and five subtelomere-encoded variable secreted proteins. Most Ags had predicted signal peptides and/or were encoded by abundantly transcribed genes, but neither parameter on their own was reliable for predicting antigenicity. Mapping of the epitopes confirmed presentation by DR or DQ class II alleles and comparison of available T. parva genome sequences demonstrated that they included both conserved and polymorphic epitopes. Immunization of animals with vaccine vectors expressing two of the Ags demonstrated induction of CD4 T cell responses capable of recognizing parasitized cells. The results of this study provide detailed insight into the CD4 T cell responses induced by T. parva and identify Ags suitable for use in vaccine development.