Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection precedes multiple sclerosis (MS) pathology and cross-reactive antibodies might link EBV infection to CNS autoimmunity. As an altered anti-EBV T cell reaction was suggested in MS, we queried peripheral blood T cell receptor β chain (TCRβ) repertoires of 1,395 MS patients, 887 controls, and 35 monozygotic, MS-discordant twin pairs for multimer-confirmed, viral antigen-specific TCRβ sequences. We detected more MHC-I-restricted EBV-specific TCRβ sequences in MS patients. Differences in genetics or upbringing could be excluded by validation in monozygotic twin pairs discordant for MS. Anti-VLA-4 treatment amplified this observation, while interferon β- or anti-CD20 treatment did not modulate EBV-specific T cell occurrence. In healthy individuals, EBV-specific CD8+ T cells were of an effector-memory phenotype in peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid. In MS patients, cerebrospinal fluid also contained EBV-specific central-memory CD8+ T cells, suggesting recent priming. Therefore, MS is not only preceded by EBV infection, but also associated with broader EBV-specific TCR repertoires, consistent with an ongoing anti-EBV immune reaction in MS.
© 2022 Schneider-Hohendorf et al.