We have raised CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) from three Epstein-Barr virus-seropositive donors by incubating peripheral blood lymphocytes with irradiated autologous B95.8-strain EBV-transformed B lymphoblastoid cells (LCL). However, to detect lysis in a standard 51Cr release assay of the LCL against which these CTL were raised, superinfection with recombinant vaccinia expressing the appropriate EBV protein or incubation with the peptide epitope was necessary. The untreated LCL were not lysed, even though Western blotting demonstrated that they expressed the EBV antigens containing the CTL epitopes. We have found CTL of this phenotype that are restricted by human leukocyte antigen-A2, -A3, -B7, or -B39, and which recognize the EBV latent proteins, EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA)-3A, EBNA-3C, or terminal protein. During these experiments, we identified a new human leukocyte antigen-A3-restricted EBNA-3A epitope, residues 603-611, RLRAEAGVK. We raised a spontaneous LCL, transformed by endogenous EBV, from one donor, but this was also not lysed. For at least one of the epitopes, CTL from another donor lysed the LCL without superinfection or addition of peptides. We conclude that the CTL were unable to achieve a high enough avidity of interaction with untreated LCL to trigger effector function, although the LCL were able to stimulate them to grow in vitro for up to 4 mo. To assess whether a small percentage of the LCL might possess a higher antigen density, we used an assay of tumor necrosis factor release from a CTL clone, which was able to detect antigen-bearing cells representing only 1% of a stimulating LCL population. Nevertheless, the untreated autologous LCL line failed to stimulate tumor necrosis factor release.

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