Epitope-specific evolution of human CD8(+) T cell responses from primary to persistent phases of Epstein-Barr virus infection

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Primary virus infection often elicits a large CD8(+) T cell response which subsequently contracts to a smaller memory T cell pool; the relationship between these two virus-specific populations is not well understood. Here we follow the human CD8(+) T cell response to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) from its primary phase in infectious mononucleosis (IM) through to the persistent carrier state. Using HLA-A2.1 or B8 tetramers specific for four lytic cycle and three latent cycle epitopes, we find marked differences in the epitope-specific composition of the T cell populations between the two phases of infection. The primary response is dominated by lytic epitope specificities which are severely culled (and in one case extinguished) with resolution of the acute infection; in contrast latent epitope specificities are less abundant, if present at all, in acute IM but often then increase their percentage representation in the CD8 pool. Even comparing epitopes of the same type, the relative size of responses seen in primary infection does not necessarily correlate with that seen in the longer term. We also follow the evolution of phenotypic change in these populations and show that, from a uniform CD45RA(-)RO(+)CCR7(-) phenotype in IM, lytic epitope responses show greater reversion to a CD45RA(+)RO(-) phenotype whereas latent epitope responses remain CD45RA(-)RO(+) with a greater tendency to acquire CCR7. Interestingly these phenotypic distinctions reflect the source of the epitope as lytic or latent, and not the extent to which the response has been amplified in vivo.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-905
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2002


  • Epstein-Barr virus, CD8(+) T lymphocytes, infectious' mononucleosis, phenotype, kinetics