Influenza H1 subtype-specific CTL can be induced by secondary stimulation of a hybrid protein of the first 81 amino acids of the viral NS1 non-structural protein and the HA2 subunit of A/Puerto Rico/8/34(H1N1) hemagglutinin. In addition, a derivative of this protein with 65 amino acids deleted from the N-terminal end of HA2 can also generate H1 subtype-specific CTL in bulk cultures. CTL clones established by stimulation with the derivative protein demonstrated cross-reactive lysis of target cells infected with virus strains of the H1 and H2 subtypes. Cold target competition experiments with CTL clones as effectors demonstrated that the Ag specificity between these two hybrid proteins is identical. Adoptive transfer of the CTL clone significantly reduced virus titers in the lungs of mice infected with the virus strains of the H1 or H2 subtype but not those infected with the H3 subtype virus in vivo, which reflects the in vitro CTL clone activity. These experiments demonstrate that an epitope on the hemagglutinin that is conserved on virus strains of the H1 and H2 subtypes induces a protective CTL response. These results suggest an alternative approach for developing influenza vaccines by using conserved antigenic sites on the hemagglutinin HA2 subunit to avoid the problem of frequent antigenic mutations of the HA1 subunit antibody binding sites.

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