A T cell epitope of the influenza virus NS1 molecule was identified and shown to be a determinant used in class II major histocompatibility complex-restricted T cell responses to infectious virus. An I-E-restricted BALB/c mouse T hybridoma clone recognizing influenza virus A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (PR8; subtype H1N1) but not A/Udorn/72 (subtype H3N2) secreted lymphokines in response to purified recombinant NS1 or fusion proteins containing amino acids 1 to 81 or 1 to 42 of NS1. As expected for recognition of a non-virion protein, the clone failed to respond to u.v.-inactivated virus. The antigenic determinant was localized by synthetic peptides to amino acids 13 to 32 of NS1, explaining the lack of recognition of A/Udorn/72 virus which has an alanine to valine substitution at position 23 within the determinant. A single intranasal dose of infectious PR8 virus was found to elicit T cells that responded to peptide NS1 13–32, suggesting that this determinant is a significant target of T cells in normal infections. To stimulate helper T cell responses similar to those achieved with infectious virus, influenza virus vaccines may therefore have to include NS1 in addition to virion components.


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