We have recently identified several influenza virus antigens that elicit CD8+ T cell responses that are ineffective at clearing virus from the lung. Interestingly, enhancement of the T cell response to these epitopes by vaccination results in delayed viral clearance following viral challenge. In at least one case, the delay in clearance appears to be due to poor antigen presentation at the site of infection.
To determine the underlying mechanisms, we are investigating antigen presentation by different cellular subsets isolated from different anatomical sites from influenza virus infected mice. In addition, we are generating T cell lines specific for these antigens to directly assess their capacity to mediate viral clearance in vivo. Understanding the relationship between specificity and function is important for vaccine development.