Distinct memory CD4+ T-cell subsets mediate immune recognition of Epstein Barr virus nuclear antigen 1 in healthy virus carriers

Kevin N. Heller, Jenica Upshaw, Beza Seyoum, Henry Zebroski, Christian Münz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

CD4+ T cells, specific for transforming latent infection with the Epstein Barr virus (EBV), consistently recognize the nuclear antigen 1 of EBV (EBNA1). EBNA1-specific effector CD4+ T cells are primarily T-helper 1 (TH1) polarized. Here we show that most healthy EBV carriers have such IFN-secreting EBNA1-specific CD4+ T cells at a frequency of 0.03% of circulating CD4+ T cells. In addition, healthy carriers have a large pool of CD4+ T cells that proliferated in response to EBNA1 and consisted of distinct memory-cell subsets. Despite continuous antigen presence due to persistent EBV infection, half of the proliferating EBNA1-specific CD4+ T cells belonged to the central-memory compartment (TCM). The remaining EBNA1-specific CD4+ T cells displayed an effector-memory phenotype (TEM), of which a minority rapidly secreted IFN upon stimulation with EBNA1. Based on chemokine receptor analysis, all EBNA1-specific TCM CD4+ T cells were TH1 committed. Our results suggest that protective immune control of chronic infections, like EBV, includes a substantial reservoir of TCM CD4+ TH1 precursors, which continuously fuels TH1-polarized effector cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1138-1146
Number of pages9
JournalBlood
Volume109
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes

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