Author(s): H C Ertl, B Dietzschold, M Gore, L Otvos Jr, J K Larson
The T-helper cell response to the internal proteins of rabies virus was investigated. The rabies virus nucleoprotein was shown to be a major target antigen for T-helper cells that cross-react between rabies and rabies-related viruses. T-helper cells were assayed in vitro by testing virus-induced lymphocytes for lymphokine secretion in response to antigen. Immunodominant T-helper cell epitopes of the viral nucleoprotein were identified in vitro by using synthetic peptides delineated from the amino acid sequence of the nucleoprotein. The response to synthetic peptides were under Ir gene control. Antigenic peptides were tested in vivo for stimulation of rabies virus-specific T-helper cells. Inoculation of mice with peptides bearing immunodominant T-helper cell epitopes resulted in an accelerated and enhanced neutralizing antibody response upon booster immunization with inactivated rabies virus.