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Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is largely asymptomatic in the immunocompetent host, but remains a major cause of morbidity in immunosuppressed individuals. Using the recently described technique of staining antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells with peptide-HLA tetrameric complexes, we have demonstrated high levels of antigen-specific cells specific for HCMV peptides and show that this may exceed 4% of CD8(+) T cells in immunocompetent donors. Moreover, by staining with tetramers in combination with antibodies to cell surface markers and intracellular cytokines, we demonstrate functional heterogeneity of HCMV-specific populations. A substantial proportion of these are effector cytotoxic T lymphocytes, as demonstrated by their ability to lyse peptide-pulsed targets in "fresh" killing assays. These data suggest that the immune response to HCMV is periodically boosted by a low level of HCMV replication and that sustained immunological surveillance contributes to the maintenance of host-pathogen homeostasis. These observations should improve our understanding of the immunobiology of persistent viral infection.

Original publication

DOI

10.1128/jvi.74.17.8140-8150.2000

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Virol

Publication Date

09/2000

Volume

74

Pages

8140 - 8150

Keywords

CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cytomegalovirus, Cytomegalovirus Infections, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Histocompatibility Testing, Humans, Immunocompetence, Phenotype, Serologic Tests, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic