The induction of a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response following influenza infection can lead to the formation of immunity capable of recognizing viruses of a different antigenicity. Our ability to exploit such broadly reactive responses in vaccination strategies is hampered by a lack of understanding on the regulation of CTL responses. In this report, we describe the utilization of reverse genetics to produce a range of recombinant viruses lacking immunodominant murine CTL epitopes. Recombinant viruses lacking the epitopes had indistinguishable growth properties in vitro and in vivo compared with the wild-type virus. Analysis of a primary immune response to these viruses showed that mutation of the anchor-binding residue leads to a loss of a response to that epitope, but no compensating increase in responses to other immunodominant epitopes. The utilization of reverse genetics and the murine model of influenza infection hold great promise for elucidating the factors regulating the CTL response.
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