Extensive T-cell epitope repertoire sharing among human proteome, gastrointestinal microbiome, and pathogenic bacteria: implications for the definition of self

Bremel, Robert D.; Homan, E. Jane
October 2015
Frontiers in Immunology;Oct2015, Vol. 6, p1
Academic Journal
T-cell receptor binding to MHC-bound peptides plays a key role in discrimination between self and non-self. Only a subset, typically a pentamer, of amino acids in a MHC-bound peptide form the motif exposed to the T-cell receptor. We categorize and compare the T-cell exposed amino acid motif repertoire of the total proteomes of two groups of bacteria, comprising pathogens and gastrointestinal microbiome organisms, with the human proteome and immunoglobulins. Given the maximum 205, or 3.2 million of such motifs that bind T-cell receptors, there is considerable overlap in motif usage. We show that the human proteome, exclusive of immunoglobulins, only comprises three quarters of the possible motifs, of which 65.3% are also present in both composite bacterial proteomes. Very few motifs are unique to the human proteome. Immunoglobulin variable regions carry a broad diversity of T-cell exposed motifs (TCEMs) that provides a stratified random sample of the motifs found in pathogens, microbiome, and the human proteome. Individual bacterial genera and species vary in the content of immunoglobulin and human proteome matched motifs that they carry. Mycobacteria and Burkholderia spp carry a particularly high content of such matched motifs. Some bacteria retain a unique motif signature and motif sharing pattern with the human proteome. The implication is that distinguishing self from non-self does not depend on individual TCEMs, but on a complex and dynamic overlay of signals wherein the same TCEM may play different roles in different organisms, and the frequency with which a particular TCEM appears influences its effect. The patterns observed provide clues to bacterial immune evasion and to strategies for intervention, including vaccine design. The breadth and distinct frequency patterns of the immunoglobulin-derived peptides suggest a role of immunoglobulins in maintaining a broadly responsive T-cell repertoire.


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