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Rapid selection and identification of functional CD8 + T cell epitopes from large peptide-coding libraries.


Cytotoxic CD8 T cells recognize and eliminate infected or malignant cells that present peptide epitopes derived from intracellularly processed antigens on their surface. However, comprehensive profiling of specific major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-bound peptide epitopes that are naturally processed and capable of eliciting a functional T cell response has been challenging. Here, we report a method for deep and unbiased T cell epitope profiling, using in vitro co-culture of CD8 T cells together with target cells transduced with high-complexity, epitope-encoding minigene libraries. Target cells that are subject to cytotoxic attack from T cells in co-culture are isolated prior to apoptosis by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, and characterized by sequencing the encoded minigenes. We then validate this highly parallelized method using known murine T cell receptor/peptide-MHC pairs and diverse minigene-encoded epitope libraries. Our data thus suggest that this epitope profiling method allows unambiguous and sensitive identification of naturally processed and MHC-presented peptide epitopes.