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Direct Evidence for Viral Antigen Presentation during Latent Cytomegalovirus Infection

Published: 10 June 2021
 by  MDPI AG
Pathogens , Volume 10; doi:10.3390/pathogens10060731

Abstract: Murine models of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection have revealed an immunological phenomenon known as “memory inflation” (MI). After a peak of a primary CD8+ T-cell response, the pool of epitope-specific cells contracts in parallel to the resolution of productive infection and the establishment of a latent infection, referred to as “latency.” CMV latency is associated with an increase in the number of cells specific for certain viral epitopes over time. The inflationary subset was identified as effector-memory T cells (iTEM) characterized by the cell surface phenotype KLRG1+CD127CD62L. As we have shown recently, latent viral genomes are not transcriptionally silent. Rather, viral genes are sporadically desilenced in a stochastic fashion. The current hypothesis proposes MI to be driven by presented viral antigenic peptides encoded by the corresponding, stochastically expressed viral genes. Although this mechanism suggests itself, independent evidence for antigen presentation during viral latency is pending. Here we fill this gap by showing that T cell-receptor transgenic OT-I cells that are specific for peptide SIINFEKL proliferate upon adoptive cell transfer in C57BL/6 recipients latently infected with murine CMV encoding SIINFEKL (mCMV-SIINFEKL), but not in those latently infected with mCMV-SIINFEKA, in which antigenicity is lost by mutation L8A of the C-terminal amino acid residue.
Keywords: antigen presentation / cytomegalovirus / inflationary effector-memory CD8 T cells (iTEM) / latent infection / memory inflation (MI) / viral latency

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