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Immunogenic T cell epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 are recognized by circulating memory and naïve CD8 T cells of unexposed individuals

Authors
  • Quiros-Fernandez, Isaac
  • Poorebrahim, Mansour
  • Fakhr, Elham
  • Cid-Arregui, Angel
Type
Published Article
Journal
EBioMedicine
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Oct 06, 2021
Volume
72
Pages
103610–103610
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103610
PMCID: PMC8493415
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research Paper
License
Unknown

Abstract

Background Recent studies have provided evidence of T cell reactivity to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in significant numbers of non-infected individuals, which has been attributed to cross-reactive CD4 memory T cells from previous exposure to seasonal coronaviruses. Less evidence of cross-reactive memory CD8 T cells has been documented to date. Methods We used the NetCTLPan neural network of the Epitope Database and Analysis Resource to select a series of 27 HLA-A*02:01 epitopes derived from the proteome of SARS-CoV-2. Their binding capacity was assessed by a HLA-A*02:01 stabilization assay and by quantifying their binding to HLA-A*02:01 monomers for the generation of tetramers. Their ability to stimulate and induce expansion of SARS-CoV-2 reactive CD8 T cells was measured by flow cytometry. The TCR repertoire of COVID convalescent and healthy unexposed donors was analysed using the MIRA database. Findings The HLA-A*02:01 epitopes tested were able to stabilise HLA molecules and induce activation of CD8 T cells of healthy unexposed donors. Our results, based on specific tetramer binding, provide evidence supporting the presence of frequent cross-reactive CD8 T cells to SARS-CoV-2 antigens in non-exposed individuals. Interestingly, the reactive cells were distributed into naïve, memory and effector subsets. Interpretation Our data are consistent with a significant proportion of the reactive CD8 T clones belonging to the public shared repertoire, readily available in absence of previous contact with closely related coronaviruses. Furthermore, we demonstrate the immunogenic capacity of long peptides carrying T cell epitopes, which can serve to isolate virus-specific T cell receptors among the ample repertoire of healthy unexposed subjects and could have application in COVID-19 immunotherapy. Limitations of our study are that it concentrated on one MHC I allele (HLA-A*02:01) and the low numbers of samples and epitopes tested.

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