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Peptides generated by proteasome-catalyzed splicing of noncontiguous amino acid sequences have been shown to constitute a source of nontemplated human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I) epitopes, but their role in pathogen-specific immunity remains unknown. CD8+ T cells are key mediators of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) control, and identification of novel epitopes to enhance targeting of infected cells is a priority for prophylactic and therapeutic strategies. To explore the contribution of proteasome-catalyzed peptide splicing (PCPS) to HIV-1 epitope generation, we developed a broadly applicable mass spectrometry-based discovery workflow that we employed to identify spliced HLA-I-bound peptides on HIV-infected cells. We demonstrate that HIV-1-derived spliced peptides comprise a relatively minor component of the HLA-I-bound viral immunopeptidome. Although spliced HIV-1 peptides may elicit CD8+ T cell responses relatively infrequently during infection, CD8+ T cells primed by partially overlapping contiguous epitopes in HIV-infected individuals were able to cross-recognize spliced viral peptides, suggesting a potential role for PCPS in restricting HIV-1 escape pathways. Vaccine-mediated priming of responses to spliced HIV-1 epitopes could thus provide a novel means of exploiting epitope targets typically underutilized during natural infection.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Publication Date





24748 - 24759


Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7FZ, United Kingdom;