Quantitative analysis of hepatitis C virus-specific CD8+ T cells in peripheral blood and liver using peptide-MHC tetramers

Xiaosong He, Barbara Rehermann, F. Xavier López-Labrador, Judie Boisvert, Ramsey Cheung, John Mumm, Heiner Wedemeyer, Marina Berenguer, Teresa L. Wright, Mark M. Davis, Harry B. Greenberg

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370 Scopus citations


It is believed that the hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) play a role in the development of liver cell injury and in the clearance of the virus. To develop a direct binding assay for HCV- specific CTLs, we generated two peptide-MHC tetramers by using the recombinant HLA A2.1 molecule and A2-restricted T cell epitopes of the HEW NS3 protein. With these reagents we are able to detect specific CD8+ cells in the blood of 15 of 20 HLA-A2+, HCV-infected patients, at a frequency ranging from 0.01% to 1.2% of peripheral CD8+ T cells. Phenotypic analysis of these specific cells indicated that there is a significant variation in the expression of the CD45 isoforms and CD27 in different patients. A 6-hour incubation of one patient's blood with NS3 peptides resulted in the activation of the epitope-specific CD8+ cells, as indicated by their expression of CD69 and IFN-γ. We also detected NS3-specific CD8+ T cells in the intrahepatic lymphocyte population isolated from liver biopsies of two HCV-infected patients. The frequency of these specific CD8+ cells in the liver was 1-2%, at least 30-fold higher than in the peripheral blood. All of the intrahepatic NS3-specific CD8+ T cells were CD69+, suggesting that they were activated CTLs. Direct quantitation and characterization of HCV-specific CTLs should extend our understanding of the immunopathogenesis and the mechanism of clearance or persistence of HCV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5692-5697
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 11 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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