Long-lived memory T lymphocyte responses against SARS coronavirus nucleocapsid protein in SARS-recovered patients

Virology. 2006 Aug 1;351(2):466-75. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2006.03.036. Epub 2006 May 11.


The nucleocapsid (N) protein is a structural component of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and can induce antibody responses in SARS patients during infection. However, it is not known whether SARS-CoV N protein can induce a long persistence of memory T-cell response in human. In this study, we found that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from fully recovered SARS individuals rapidly produced IFN-gamma and IL-2 following stimulation with a pool of overlapping peptides that cover the entire N protein sequence. The N-specific IFN-gamma(+)CD4(+) T cells were mainly composed of CD45RA(-)CCR7(+)CD62L(-) cells, whereas IFN-gamma(+)CD8(+) memory T cells were mostly contained within CD45RA(+)CCR7(-)CD62L(-) cell population. Epitope mapping study indicated that a cluster of overlapping peptides located in the C-terminal region (amino acids [aa] 331 to 362) of N protein contained at least two different T-cell epitopes. The results indicated that human memory T-cell responses specific for SARS-CoV N protein could persist for 2 years in the absence of antigen, which would be a valuable for the design of effective vaccines against SARS-CoV and for basic studies of human T-cell memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / immunology*
  • SARS Virus / chemistry
  • SARS Virus / immunology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / immunology*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / virology


  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Interferon-gamma