Long-term immunological memory to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is crucial for the development of population-level immunity, which is the aim of vaccination approaches. Reports on rapidly decreasing antibody titers have led to questions regarding the efficacy of humoral immunity alone. The relevance of T cell memory after coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remains unclear. Here, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 antibody and T cell responses in matched samples of COVID-19 convalescent individuals up to 6 months after infection. Longitudinal analysis revealed decreasing and stable spike- and nucleocapsid-specific antibody responses, respectively. In contrast, functional T cell responses remained robust, and even increased, in both frequency and intensity. Single peptide mapping of T cell diversity over time identified open reading frame-independent, dominant T cell epitopes mediating long-term SARS-CoV-2 T cell responses. Identification of these epitopes may be fundamental for COVID-19 vaccine design.
Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).