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Swine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory viral infection in pigs that is responsible for significant financial losses to pig farmers annually. Current measures to protect herds from infection include: inactivated whole-virus vaccines, subunit vaccines, and alpha replicon-based vaccines. As is true for influenza vaccines for humans, these strategies do not provide broad protection against the diverse strains of influenza A virus (IAV) currently circulating in U.S. swine. Improved approaches to developing swine influenza vaccines are needed. Here, we used immunoinformatics tools to identify class I and II T cell epitopes highly conserved in seven representative strains of IAV in U.S. swine and predicted to bind to Swine Leukocyte Antigen (SLA) alleles prevalent in commercial swine. Epitope-specific interferon-gamma (IFNγ) recall responses to pooled peptides and whole virus were detected in pigs immunized with multi-epitope plasmid DNA vaccines encoding strings of class I and II putative epitopes. In a retrospective analysis of the IFNγ responses to individual peptides compared to predictions specific to the SLA alleles of cohort pigs, we evaluated the predictive performance of PigMatrix and demonstrated its ability to distinguish non-immunogenic from immunogenic peptides and to identify promiscuous class II epitopes. Overall, this study confirms the capacity of PigMatrix to predict immunogenic T cell epitopes and demonstrate its potential for use in the design of epitope-driven vaccines for swine. Additional studies that match the SLA haplotype of animals with the study epitopes will be required to evaluate the degree of immune protection conferred by epitope-driven DNA vaccines in pigs.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 License.