Journal of virology

Sustained high frequencies of specific CD4 T cells restricted to a single persistent virus.

PMID 11907214


Replication of cytomegalovirus (CMV) is largely controlled by the cellular arm of the immune response. In this study the CMV-specific CD4 T-cell response was characterized in a cohort of apparently healthy individuals. In 11% of all individuals, extremely high frequencies, between 10 and 40%, were found. High-level frequencies of CMV-specific CD4 T cells persisted over several months and were not the result of an acute infection. Specific T cells were oligoclonal and were phenotypically and functionally characterized as mature effector cells, with both cytokine-secreting and proliferative potential. These high-level frequencies do not seem to compromise the immune response towards heterologous infections, and no signs of immunopathology were observed. Whereas a large temporary expansion of virus-specific T cells is well known to occur during acute infection, we now show that extremely high frequencies of virus-specific T cells may continuously exist in chronic CMV infection without overtly compromising the remaining protective immunity.