73 Scopus citations


T cell-mediated immunity plays an important role in controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection, but the repertoire of naturally processed and presented viral epitopes on class I human leukocyte antigen (HLA-I) remains uncharacterized. Here, we report the first HLA-I immunopeptidome of SARS-CoV-2 in two cell lines at different times post infection using mass spectrometry. We found HLA-I peptides derived not only from canonical open reading frames (ORFs) but also from internal out-of-frame ORFs in spike and nucleocapsid not captured by current vaccines. Some peptides from out-of-frame ORFs elicited T cell responses in a humanized mouse model and individuals with COVID-19 that exceeded responses to canonical peptides, including some of the strongest epitopes reported to date. Whole-proteome analysis of infected cells revealed that early expressed viral proteins contribute more to HLA-I presentation and immunogenicity. These biological insights, as well as the discovery of out-of-frame ORF epitopes, will facilitate selection of peptides for immune monitoring and vaccine development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3962-3980.e17
Issue number15
StatePublished - 22 Jul 2021


  • HLA Class I
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T Cell response
  • coronavirus
  • immunogenicity
  • out-of-frame ORF immunopeptidomics
  • viral infection


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