Epstein-barr virus epitope-major histocompatibility complex interaction combined with convergent recombination drives selection of diverse T cell receptor α and β repertoires

Anna Gil, Larisa Kamga, Ramakanth Chirravuri-Venkata, Nuray Aslan, Fransenio Clark, Dario Ghersi, Katherine Luzuriaga, Liisa K. Selin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recognition modes of individual T cell receptors (TCRs) are well studied, but factors driving the selection of TCR repertoires from primary through persistent human virus infections are less well understood. Using deep sequencing, we demonstrate a high degree of diversity of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific clonotypes in acute infectious mononucleosis (AIM). Only 9% of unique clonotypes detected in AIM persisted into convalescence; the majority (91%) of unique clonotypes detected in AIM were not detected in convalescence and were seeming replaced by equally diverse “de novo” clonotypes. The persistent clonotypes had a greater probability of being generated than nonpersistent clonotypes due to convergence recombination of multiple nucleotide sequences to encode the same amino acid sequence, as well as the use of shorter complementarity-determining regions 3 (CDR3s) with fewer nucleotide additions (i.e., sequences closer to germ line). Moreover, the two most immunodominant HLA-A2-restricted EBV epitopes, BRLF1109 and BMLF1280, show highly distinct antigen-specific public (i.e., shared between individuals) features. In fact, TCRα CDR3 motifs played a dominant role, while TCRβ played a minimal role, in the selection of TCR repertoire to an immunodominant EBV epitope, BRLF1. This contrasts with the majority of previously reported repertoires, which appear to be selected either on TCRβ CDR3 interactions with peptide/major histocompatibility complex (MHC) or in combination with TCRα CDR3. Understanding of how TCR-peptide-MHC complex interactions drive repertoire selection can be used to develop optimal strategies for vaccine design or generation of appropriate adoptive immunotherapies for viral infections in transplant settings or for cancer. IMPORTANCE Several lines of evidence suggest that TCRα and TCRβ repertoires play a role in disease outcomes and treatment strategies during viral infections in transplant patients and in cancer and autoimmune disease therapy. Our data suggest that it is essential that we understand the basic principles of how to drive optimum repertoires for both TCR chains, α and β. We address this important issue by characterizing the CD8 TCR repertoire to a common persistent human viral infection (EBV), which is controlled by appropriate CD8 T cell responses. The ultimate goal would be to determine if the individuals who are infected asymptomatically develop a different TCR repertoire than those that develop the immunopathology of AIM. Here, we begin by doing an in-depth characterization of both CD8 T cell TCRα and TCRβ repertoires to two immunodominant EBV epitopes over the course of AIM, identifying potential factors that may be driving their selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00250-20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Acute infectious mononucleosis
  • EBV
  • Epstein-barr virus
  • Repertoire
  • T cell receptor
  • TCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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