Discovery of a monoclonal, high-affinity CD8+ T-cell clone following natural hepatitis C virus infection

Immunol Cell Biol. 2024 Jun 10. doi: 10.1111/imcb.12791. Online ahead of print.


CD8+ T cells recognizing their cognate antigen are typically recruited as a polyclonal population consisting of multiple clonotypes with varying T-cell receptor (TCR) affinity to the target peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) complex. Advances in single-cell sequencing have increased accessibility toward identifying TCRs with matched antigens. Here we present the discovery of a monoclonal CD8+ T-cell population with specificity for a hepatitis C virus (HCV)-derived human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I epitope (HLA-B*07:02 GPRLGVRAT) which was isolated directly ex vivo from an individual with an episode of acutely resolved HCV infection. This population was absent before infection and underwent expansion and stable maintenance for at least 2 years after infection as measured by HLA-multimer staining. Furthermore, the monoclonal clonotype was characterized by an unusually long dissociation time (half-life = 794 s and koff = 5.73 × 10-4) for its target antigen when compared with previously published results. A comparison with related populations of HCV-specific populations derived from the same individual and a second individual suggested that high-affinity TCR-pMHC interactions may be inherent to epitope identity and shape the phenotype of responses which has implications for rational TCR selection and design in the age of personalized immunotherapies.

Keywords: CD8+ T cells; T‐cell receptor; T‐cell response dynamics; affinity; monoclonal expansion.