Deep sequencing of antiviral T-cell responses to HCMV and EBV in humans reveals a stable repertoire that is maintained for many years

CD8(+) T-cell responses against latent viruses can cover considerable portions of the CD8(+) T-cell compartment for many decades, yet their initiation and maintenance remains poorly characterized in humans. A key question is whether the clonal repertoire that is raised during the initial antiviral response can be maintained over these long periods. To investigate this we combined next-generation sequencing of the T-cell receptor repertoire with tetramer-sorting to identify, quantify and longitudinally follow virus-specific clones within the CD8(+) T-cell compartment. Using this approach we studied primary infections of human cytomegalovirus (hCMV) and Epstein Barr virus (EBV) in renal transplant recipients. For both viruses we found that nearly all virus-specific CD8(+) T-cell clones that appeared during the early phase of infection were maintained at high frequencies during the 5-year follow-up and hardly any new anti-viral clones appeared. Both in transplant recipients and in healthy carriers the clones specific for these latent viruses were highly dominant within the CD8(+) T-cell receptor Vβ repertoire. These findings suggest that the initial antiviral response in humans is maintained in a stable fashion without signs of contraction or changes of the clonal repertoire.

Klarenbeek PL, Remmerswaal EB, ten Berge IJ, Doorenspleet ME, van Schaik BD, Esveldt RE, Koch SD, ten Brinke A, van Kampen AH, Bemelman FJ, Tak PP, Baas F, de Vries N, van Lier RA
PLoS Pathog. 2012 Sep;8(9)