Deciphering the TCR Repertoire to Solve the COVID-19 Mystery

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2020 Aug;41(8):518-530. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2020 Jun 20.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected several millions and killed more than quarter of a million worldwide to date. Important questions have remained unanswered: why some patients develop severe disease, while others do not; and what roles do genetic variabilities play in the individual immune response to this viral infection. Here, we discuss the critical role T cells play in the orchestration of the antiviral response underlying the pathogenesis of the disease, COVID-19. We highlight the scientific rationale for comprehensive and longitudinal TCR analyses in COVID-19 and reason that analyzing TCR repertoire in COVID-19 patients would reveal important findings that may explain the outcome disparity observed in these patients. Finally, we provide a framework describing the different strategies, the advantages, and the challenges involved in obtaining useful TCR repertoire data to advance our fight against COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; T cell receptors; TCR repertoire; TCR-seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / genetics
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / genetics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell