PD-L1 checkpoint inhibition narrows the antigen-specific t cell receptor repertoire in chronic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection

S. Klein, D. Ghersi, M. P. Manns, I. Prinz, M. Cornberg, A. R.M. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Checkpoint inhibitors are effective in restoring exhausted CD8+ T cell responses in persistent viral infections or tumors. Several compounds are in clinical use for different malignancies, but trials in patients with chronic viral infections have also been conducted. In a mouse model of persistent lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection, it was shown that checkpoint inhibitor treatment increased T cell proliferation and functionality, but its influence on the antigen-specific T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire is unknown. NP396-specific CD8+ T cells dominate during acute LCMV infection and are predominantly exhausted during chronic infection. Next-generation sequencing of NP396-specific TCRs showed that exhaustion corresponds with a significantly reduced NP396-specific TCR repertoire diversity: Shannon indices of 4 in immunized mice to 2.6 in persistently infected mice. Anti-PD-L1 treatment during persistent LCMV infection restored NP396-specific T cell responses and reduced viral titers. Nevertheless, anti-PD-L1-treated mice showed an even more narrowed TCR repertoire, with reduced TCR diversity compared to that of persistently infected control mice (Shannon indices of 2.1 and 2.6, respectively). Interestingly, anti-PD-L1 treatment-induced narrowing of the TCR repertoire negatively correlates with functional and physical restoration of the antigen-specific T cell response. Further, we found that private, hyperexpanded TCR clonotypes dominated the T cell response after anti-PD-L1 treatment. Although being private, these top clonotypes from anti-PD-L1-treated mice revealed a more closely related CDR3 motif than those of top clonotypes from persistently infected control mice. In conclusion, although targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway reinvigorates exhausted CD8+ T cells, it fails to restore T cell repertoire diversity. IMPORTANCE Checkpoint inhibitors are effective immunotherapeutics to restore cancer- and virus-induced exhausted CD8+ T cells, by enhancing the quality and survival of immune responses. Although checkpoint inhibitors are already used as therapy against various cancers, not much is known about their multifaceted impact on the exhausted CD8+ T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire. This report describes for the first time the evolvement of an exhausted antigen-specific CD8+ TCR repertoire under checkpoint inhibitor treatment. By using a well-established virus model, we were able to show major shifts toward oligoclonality of the CD8+ TCR repertoire response against a massively exhausted lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) epitope. While supporting viral control in the LCMV model, oligoclonality and more private of TCR repertoires may impact future pathogenic challenges and may promote viral es- cape. Our results may explain the ongoing problems of viral escapes, unpredictable autoimmunity, and heterogeneous responses appearing as adverse effects of checkpoint inhibitor treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00795-20
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Anti-PD-L1
  • Checkpoint inhibitor
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
  • Next-generation sequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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