Dynamics of TCR repertoire and T cell function in COVID-19 convalescent individuals

Cell Discov. 2021 Sep 28;7(1):89. doi: 10.1038/s41421-021-00321-x.


SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has been declared by World Health Organization as a worldwide pandemic. However, there are many unknowns about the antigen-specific T-cell-mediated immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we present both single-cell TCR-seq and RNA-seq to analyze the dynamics of TCR repertoire and immune metabolic functions of blood T cells collected from recently discharged COVID-19 patients. We found that while the diversity of TCR repertoire was increased in discharged patients, it returned to basal level ~1 week after becoming virus-free. The dynamics of T cell repertoire correlated with a profound shift of gene signatures from antiviral response to metabolism adaptation. We also demonstrated that the top expanded T cell clones (~10% of total T cells) display the key anti-viral features in CD8+ T cells, confirming a critical role of antigen-specific T cells in fighting against SARS-CoV-2. Our work provides a basis for further analysis of adaptive immunity in COVID-19 patients, and also has implications in developing a T-cell-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.