Expansion of Unique Hepatitis C Virus-Specific Public CD8+ T Cell Clonotypes during Acute Infection and Reinfection

J Immunol. 2021 Aug 15;207(4):1180-1193. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2001386. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection resolves spontaneously in ∼25% of acutely infected humans where viral clearance is mediated primarily by virus-specific CD8+ T cells. Previous cross-sectional analysis of the CD8+ TCR repertoire targeting two immunodominant HCV epitopes reported widespread use of public TCRs shared by different subjects, irrespective of infection outcome. However, little is known about the evolution of the public TCR repertoire during acute HCV and whether cross-reactivity to other Ags can influence infectious outcome. In this article, we analyzed the CD8+ TCR repertoire specific to the immunodominant and cross-reactive HLA-A2-restricted nonstructural 3-1073 epitope during acute HCV in humans progressing to either spontaneous resolution or chronic infection and at ∼1 y after viral clearance. TCR repertoire diversity was comparable among all groups with preferential usage of the TCR-β V04 and V06 gene families. We identified a set of 13 public clonotypes in HCV-infected humans independent of infection outcome. Six public clonotypes used the V04 gene family. Several public clonotypes were long-lived in resolvers and expanded on reinfection. By mining publicly available data, we identified several low-frequency CDR3 sequences in the HCV-specific repertoire matching human TCRs specific for other HLA-A2-restricted epitopes from melanoma, CMV, influenza A, EBV, and yellow fever viruses, but they were of low frequency and limited cross-reactivity. In conclusion, we identified 13 new public human CD8+ TCR clonotypes unique to HCV that expanded during acute infection and reinfection. The low frequency of cross-reactive TCRs suggests that they are not major determinants of infectious outcome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • HLA-A2 Antigen / immunology
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / immunology
  • Reinfection / immunology*


  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta