SARS-CoV-2 epitope-specific CD4+ memory T cell responses across COVID-19 disease severity and antibody durability

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Sci Immunol. 2022 Apr 21:eabl9464. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abl9464. Online ahead of print.


CD4+ T cells are central to long-term immunity against viruses through the functions of T helper-1 (Th1) and T follicular helper (Tfh) cell subsets. To better understand the role of these subsets in COVID-19 immunity, we conducted a longitudinal study of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ T cell and antibody responses in convalescent subjects who seroconverted during the first wave of the pandemic in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, across a range of COVID-19 disease severities. Analyses of spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) epitope-specific CD4+ T cells using peptide and major histocompatibility complex class II (peptide:MHCII) tetramers demonstrated expanded populations of T cells recognizing the different SARS-CoV-2 epitopes in most subjects compared to pre-pandemic controls. Individuals who experienced a milder disease course not requiring hospitalization had a greater percentage of circulating Tfh (cTfh) and Th1 cells among SARS-CoV-2-specific cells. Analysis of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4+ T cells responses in a subset of individuals with sustained anti-S antibody responses following viral clearance also revealed an increased proportion of memory cTfh cells. Our findings indicate efficient early disease control also predicts favorable long-term adaptive immunity.

PMID:35857584 | DOI:10.1126/sciimmunol.abl9464