Cytotoxic CD4+ T-cells specific for EBV capsid antigen BORF1 are maintained in long-term latently infected healthy donors

Alexander C. Dowell, Tracey A. Haigh, Gordon B. Ryan, James E. Turner, Heather M. Long, Graham S. Taylor

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7 Citations (SciVal)


Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infects more than 95% of the population whereupon it establishes a latent infection of B-cells that persists for life under immune control. Primary EBV infection can cause infectious mononucleosis (IM) and long-term viral carriage is associated with several malignancies and certain autoimmune diseases. Current efforts developing EBV prophylactic vaccination have focussed on neutralising antibodies. An alternative strategy, that could enhance the efficacy of such vaccines or be used alone, is to generate T-cell responses capable of recognising and eliminating newly EBV-infected cells before the virus initiates its growth transformation program. T-cell responses against the EBV structural proteins, brought into the newly infected cell by the incoming virion, are prime candidates for such responses. Here we show the structural EBV capsid proteins BcLF1, BDLF1 and BORF1 are frequent targets of T-cell responses in EBV infected people, identify new CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell epitopes and map their HLA restricting alleles. Using T-cell clones we demonstrate that CD4+ but not CD8+ T-cell clones specific for the capsid proteins can recognise newly EBV-infected B-cells and control B-cell outgrowth via cytotoxicity. Using MHC-II tetramers we show a CD4+ T-cell response to an epitope within the BORF1 capsid protein epitope is present during acute EBV infection and in long-term viral carriage. In common with other EBV-specific CD4+ T-cell responses the BORF1-specific CD4+ T-cells in IM patients expressed perforin and granzyme-B. Unexpectedly, perforin and granzyme-B expression was sustained over time even when the donor had entered the long-term infected state. These data further our understanding of EBV structural proteins as targets of T-cell responses and how CD4+ T-cell responses to EBV change from acute disease into convalescence. They also identify new targets for prophylactic EBV vaccine development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010137
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Cancer Research UK award C8781/A13174 awarded to GST. ACD, JET, and TH were salaried from this award. The funder had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We thank Dr Clare Shannon-Lowe (University of Birmingham) for her assistance with purifying and quantitating EBV preparations.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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