The importance of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in the immunosurveillance of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected B cells is firmly established, and the viral antigens of CTL recognition in latent infection are well defined. The epitopes targeted by CTLs during primary infection have not been identified, however, and there is only limited information about T cell receptor (TCR) selection. In the present report, we have monitored the development of memory TCR-beta clonotypes selected in response to natural EBV infection in a longitudinal study of an HLA-B8+ individual with acute infectious mononucleosis (IM). By stimulating peripheral blood lymphocytes with HLA-B8+ EBV-transformed B lymphoblastoid cells, the primary virus-specific CTL response was shown to include specificities for two HLA-B8-restricted antigenic determinants, FLRGRAYGL and QAKWRLQTL, which are encoded within the latent EBV nuclear antigen EBNA-3. TCR-beta sequence analysis of CTL clones specific for each epitope showed polyclonal TCR-beta repertoire selection, with structural restrictions on recognition that indicated antigen-driven selection. Furthermore, longitudinal repertoire analysis revealed long-term preservation of a multiclonal effector response throughout convalescence, with the reemergence of distinct memory T cell clonotypes sharing similar structural restrictions. Tracking the progression of specific TCR-beta clonotypes and antigen-specific TCR-V beta family gene expression in the peripheral repertoire ex vivo using semiquantitative PCR strongly suggested that selective TCR-beta expansions were present at the clonotype level, but not at the TCR-V beta family level. Overall, in this first analysis of antigen-specific TCR development in IM, a picture of polyclonal TCR stimulation is apparent. This diversity may be especially important in the establishment of an effective CTL control during acute EBV infection and in recovery from disease.

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