Discovery of novel cross-protective Rickettsia prowazekii T-cell antigens using a combined reverse vaccinology and in vivo screening approach

Erika Caro-Gomez, Michal Gazi, Yenny Goez, Gustavo Valbuena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Rickettsial agents are some of the most lethal pathogens known to man. Among them, Rickettsia prowazekii is a select agent with potential use for bioterrorism; yet, there is no anti-Rickettsia vaccine commercially available. Owing to the obligate intracellular lifestyle of rickettsiae, CD8+ T cells are indispensable for protective cellular immunity. Furthermore, T cells can mediate cross-protective immunity between different pathogenic Rickettsia, a finding consistent with the remarkable similarity among rickettsial genomes. However, Rickettsia T cell antigens remain unidentified. In the present study, we report an algorithm that allowed us to identify and validate four novel R. prowazekii vaccine antigen candidates recognized by CD8+ T cells from a set of twelve in silico-defined protein targets. Our results highlight the importance of combining proteasome-processing as well as MHC class-I-binding predictions. The novel rickettsial vaccine candidate antigens, RP778, RP739, RP598, and RP403, protected mice against a lethal challenge with Rickettsia typhi, which is indicative of cross-protective immunity within the typhus group rickettsiae. Together, our findings validate a reverse vaccinology approach as a viable strategy to identify protective rickettsial antigens and highlight the feasibility of a subunit vaccine that triggers T-cell-mediated cross-protection among diverse rickettsiae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4968-4976
Number of pages9
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 3 2014



  • Reverse vaccinology
  • Rickettsia
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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