Epitope Selection for Fighting Visceral Leishmaniosis: Not All Peptides Function the Same Way

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Visceral leishmaniosis (VL) caused by Leishmania infantum is a disease with an increasing prevalence worldwide. Treatments are expensive, toxic, and ineffective. Therefore, vaccination seems to be a promising approach to control VL. Peptide-based vaccination is a useful method due to its stability, absence of local side effects, and ease of scaling up. In this context, bioinformatics seems to facilitate the use of peptides, as this analysis can predict high binding affinity epitopes to MHC class I and II molecules of different species. We have recently reported the use of HisAK70 DNA immunization in mice to induce a resistant phenotype against L. major, L. infantum, and L. amazonensis infections. In the present study, we used bioinformatics tools to select promising multiepitope peptides (HisDTC and AK) from the polyprotein encoded in the HisAK70 DNA to evaluate their immunogenicity in the murine model of VL by L. infantum. Our results revealed that both multiepitope peptides were able to induce the control of VL in mice. Furthermore, HisDTC was able to induce a better cell-mediated immune response in terms of reduced parasite burden, protective cytokine profile, leishmanicidal enzyme modulation, and specific IgG2a isotype production in immunized mice, before and after infectious challenge. Overall, this study indicates that the HisDTC chimera may be considered a satisfactory tool to control VL because it is able to activate a potent CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell protective immune responses.
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