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<jats:p>The preexisting HIV-1–specific T cell repertoire must influence both the immunodominance of T cells after infection and immunogenicity of vaccines. We directly compared two methods for measuring the preexisting CD4+ T cell repertoire in healthy HIV-1–negative volunteers, the HLA-peptide tetramer enrichment and T cell library technique, and show high concordance (r = 0.989). Using the library technique, we examined whether naive, central memory, and/or effector memory CD4+ T cells specific for overlapping peptides spanning the entire HIV-1 proteome were detectable in 10 HLA diverse, HIV-1–unexposed, seronegative donors. HIV-1–specific cells were detected in all donors at a mean of 55 cells/million naive cells and 38.9 and 34.1 cells/million in central and effector memory subsets. Remarkably, peptide mapping showed most epitopes recognized by naive (88%) and memory (56%) CD4+ T cells had been previously reported in natural HIV-1 infection. Furthermore, 83% of epitopes identified in preexisting memory subsets shared epitope length matches (8–12 amino acids) with human microbiome proteins, suggestive of a possible cross-reactive mechanism. These results underline the power of a proteome-wide analysis of peptide recognition by human T cells for the identification of dominant antigens and provide a baseline for optimizing HIV-1–specific helper cell responses by vaccination.</jats:p>

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of Experimental Medicine


Rockefeller University Press

Publication Date





1273 - 1280