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Front Immunol ; 12: 796379, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1604322


Whole genome sequencing of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) isolates from around the world has uncovered pervasive strain heterogeneity, but the forces driving strain diversification and the impact on immune recognition remained largely unknown. Using a data mining approach, we analyzed more than 300 T-cell epitopes in 168 published EBV strains. Polymorphisms were detected in approximately 65% of all CD8+ and 80% of all CD4+ T-cell epitopes and these numbers further increased when epitope flanking regions were included. Polymorphisms in CD8+ T-cell epitopes often involved MHC anchor residues and resulted in changes of the amino acid subgroup, suggesting that only a limited number of conserved T-cell epitopes may represent generic target antigens against different viral strains. Although considered the prototypic EBV strain, the rather low degree of overlap with most other viral strains implied that B95.8 may not represent the ideal reference strain for T-cell epitopes. Instead, a combinatorial library of consensus epitopes may provide better targets for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes when the infecting strain is unknown. Polymorphisms were significantly enriched in epitope versus non-epitope protein sequences, implicating immune selection in driving strain diversification. Remarkably, CD4+ T-cell epitopes in EBNA2, EBNA-LP, and the EBNA3 family appeared to be under negative selection pressure, hinting towards a beneficial role of immune responses against these latency type III antigens in virus biology. These findings validate this immunoinformatics approach for providing novel insight into immune targets and the intricate relationship of host defense and virus evolution that may also pertain to other pathogens.

Antigenic Variation , Antigens, Viral/genetics , Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte/genetics , Genetic Heterogeneity , Herpesvirus 4, Human/genetics , Polymorphism, Genetic , Algorithms , Antigens, Viral/immunology , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/virology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/virology , Data Mining , Databases, Genetic , Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte/immunology , Herpesvirus 4, Human/immunology
Cell Rep ; 38(2): 110214, 2022 01 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1588141


T cell immunity is crucial for control of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and has been studied widely on a quantitative level. However, the quality of responses, in particular of CD8+ T cells, has only been investigated marginally so far. Here, we isolate T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires specific for immunodominant SARS-CoV-2 epitopes restricted to common human Leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules in convalescent individuals. SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells are detected up to 12 months after infection. TCR repertoires are diverse, with heterogeneous functional avidity and cytotoxicity toward virus-infected cells, as demonstrated for TCR-engineered T cells. High TCR functionality correlates with gene signatures that, remarkably, could be retrieved for each epitope:HLA combination analyzed. Overall, our data demonstrate that polyclonal and highly functional CD8+ TCRs-classic features of protective immunity-are recruited upon mild SARS-CoV-2 infection, providing tools to assess the quality of and potentially restore functional CD8+ T cell immunity.

CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Adult , Cells, Cultured , Cross Reactions/immunology , Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte/immunology , Female , Humans , Immunodominant Epitopes/immunology , Leukocytes, Mononuclear/immunology , Leukocytes, Mononuclear/virology , Male , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic/immunology
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 4515, 2021 07 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1327196


The in vivo phenotypic profile of T cells reactive to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2 antigens remains poorly understood. Conventional methods to detect antigen-reactive T cells require in vitro antigenic re-stimulation or highly individualized peptide-human leukocyte antigen (pHLA) multimers. Here, we use single-cell RNA sequencing to identify and profile SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. To do so, we induce transcriptional shifts by antigenic stimulation in vitro and take advantage of natural T cell receptor (TCR) sequences of clonally expanded T cells as barcodes for 'reverse phenotyping'. This allows identification of SARS-CoV-2-reactive TCRs and reveals phenotypic effects introduced by antigen-specific stimulation. We characterize transcriptional signatures of currently and previously activated SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells, and show correspondence with phenotypes of T cells from the respiratory tract of patients with severe disease in the presence or absence of virus in independent cohorts. Reverse phenotyping is a powerful tool to provide an integrated insight into cellular states of SARS-CoV-2-reactive T cells across tissues and activation states.

COVID-19/immunology , Gene Expression Profiling/methods , Sequence Analysis, RNA/methods , Single-Cell Analysis/methods , T-Lymphocytes/metabolism , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/metabolism , CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes/virology , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Cells, Cultured , Cohort Studies , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/genetics , Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/immunology , Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , T-Lymphocytes/virology