Diverse specificities, phenotypes, and antiviral activities of cytomegalovirus-specific CD8+ T cells.
UNLABELLED: CD8(+) T cells specific for pp65, IE1, and IE2 are present at high frequencies in human cytomegalovirus (HCMV)-seropositive individuals, and these have been shown to have phenotypes associated with terminal differentiation, as well as both cytokine and proliferative dysfunctions, especially in the elderly. However, more recently, T cell responses to many other HCMV proteins have been described, but little is known about their phenotypes and functions. Consequently, in this study, we chose to determine the diversity of HCMV-specific CD8(+) T cell responses to the products of 11 HCMV open reading frames (ORFs) in a cohort of donors aged 20 to 80 years old as well as the ability of the T cells to secrete gamma interferon (IFN-γ). Finally, we also tested their functional antiviral capacity using a novel viral dissemination assay. We identified substantial CD8(+) T cell responses by IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays to all 11 of these HCMV proteins, and across the cohort, individuals displayed a range of responses, from tightly focused to highly diverse, which were stable over time. CD8(+) T cell responses to the HCMV ORFs were highly differentiated and predominantly CD45RA(+), CD57(+), and CD28(-), across the cohort. These highly differentiated cells had the ability to inhibit viral spread even following direct ex vivo isolation. Taken together, our data argue that HCMV-specific CD8(+) T cells have effective antiviral activity irrespective of the viral protein recognized across the whole cohort and despite viral immune evasion. IMPORTANCE: Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is normally carried without clinical symptoms and is widely prevalent in the population; however, it often causes severe clinical disease in individuals with compromised immune responses. HCMV is never cleared after primary infection but persists in the host for life. In HCMV carriers, the immune response to HCMV includes large numbers of virus-specific immune cells, and the virus has evolved many mechanisms to evade the immune response. While this immune response seems to protect healthy people from subsequent disease, the virus is never eliminated. It has been suggested that this continuous surveillance by the immune system may have deleterious effects in later life. The study presented in this paper examined immune responses from a cohort of donors and shows that these immune cells are effective at controlling the virus and can overcome the virus' lytic cycle immune evasion mechanisms.
Medical Research Council (G0701279)