Varicella-zoster virus proteome-wide T-cell screening demonstrates low prevalence of virus-specific CD8 T-cells in latently infected human trigeminal ganglia

Michiel van Gent, Werner J.D. Ouwendijk, Victoria L. Campbell, Kerry J. Laing, Georges M.G.M. Verjans*, David M. Koelle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Trigeminal ganglia (TG) neurons are an important site of lifelong latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection. Although VZV-specific T-cells are considered pivotal to control virus reactivation, their protective role at the site of latency remains uncharacterized. Methods: Paired blood and TG specimens were obtained from ten latent VZV-infected adults, of which nine were co-infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Short-term TG-derived T-cell lines (TG-TCL), generated by mitogenic stimulation of TG-derived T-cells, were probed for HSV-1- and VZV-specific T-cells using flow cytometry. We also performed VZV proteome-wide screening of TG-TCL to determine the fine antigenic specificity of VZV reactive T-cells. Finally, the relationship between T-cells and latent HSV-1 and VZV infections in TG was analyzed by reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and in situ analysis for T-cell proteins and latent viral transcripts. Results: VZV proteome-wide analysis of ten TG-TCL identified two VZV antigens recognized by CD8 T-cells in two separate subjects. The first was an HSV-1/VZV cross-reactive CD8 T-cell epitope, whereas the second TG harbored CD8 T-cells reactive with VZV specifically and not the homologous peptide in HSV-1. In silico analysis showed that HSV-1/VZV cross reactivity of TG-derived CD8 T-cells reactive with ten previously identified HSV-1 epitopes was unlikely, suggesting that HSV-1/VZV cross-reactive T-cells are not a common feature in dually infected TG. Finally, no association was detected between T-cell infiltration and VZV latency transcript abundance in TG by RT-qPCR or in situ analyses. Conclusions: The low presence of VZV- compared to HSV-1-specific CD8 T-cells in human TG suggests that VZV reactive CD8 T-cells play a limited role in maintaining VZV latency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was in part supported by NIH contract 75N93019C00063 and R01AG064800 (DMK and GMGMV).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


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