CD8+ immunodominance among Epstein-Barr virus lytic cycle antigens directly reflects the efficiency of antigen presentation in lytically infected cells

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Antigen immunodominance is an unexplained feature of CD8+ T cell responses to herpesviruses, which are agents whose lytic replication involves the sequential expression of immediate early (IE), early (E), and late (L) proteins. Here, we analyze the primary CD8 response to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection for reactivity to 2 IE proteins, 11 representative E proteins, and 10 representative L proteins, across a range of HLA backgrounds. Responses were consistently skewed toward epitopes in IE and a subset of E proteins, with only occasional responses to novel epitopes in L proteins. CD8+ T cell clones to representative IE, E, and L epitopes were assayed against EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) containing lytically infected cells. This showed direct recognition of lytically infected cells by all three sets of effectors but at markedly different levels, in the order IE > E > L, indicating that the efficiency of epitope presentation falls dramatically with progress of the lytic cycle. Thus, EBV lytic cycle antigens display a hierarchy of immunodominance that directly reflects the efficiency of their presentation in lytically infected cells; the CD8+ T cell response thereby focuses on targets whose recognition leads to maximal biologic effect.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2005


  • Antibody Affinity, Antigen Presentation, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Epstein-Barr Virus Infections, Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens, HLA Antigens, Humans, Immunodominant Epitopes, Virus Replication