Impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants on the total CD4+ and CD8+ T cell reactivity in infected or vaccinated individuals

Cell Rep Med. 2021 Jul 20;2(7):100355. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2021.100355. Epub 2021 Jul 2.


The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with evidence of antibody escape highlight the importance of addressing whether the total CD4+ and CD8+ T cell recognition is also affected. Here, we compare SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells against the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, P.1, and CAL.20C lineages in COVID-19 convalescents and in recipients of the Moderna (mRNA-1273) or Pfizer/BioNTech (BNT162b2) COVID-19 vaccines. The total reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 variants is similar in terms of magnitude and frequency of response, with decreases in the 10%-22% range observed in some assay/VOC combinations. A total of 7% and 3% of previously identified CD4+ and CD8+ T cell epitopes, respectively, are affected by mutations in the various VOCs. Thus, the SARS-CoV-2 variants analyzed here do not significantly disrupt the total SARS-CoV-2 T cell reactivity; however, the decreases observed highlight the importance for active monitoring of T cell reactivity in the context of SARS-CoV-2 evolution.

Keywords: CD4; CD8; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; T cells; VOCs; vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / metabolism
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants