Pediatric transplant recipients are at increased risk for Epstein Barr virus (EBV)-related B cell lymphomas. In healthy individuals, the expansion of EBV-infected B cells is controlled by CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. However, immunosuppressive therapy may compromise antiviral immunity. We identified and determined the frequency of EBV-specific T cells in the peripheral blood of pediatric transplant recipients.HLA-B*0801 and HLA-A*0201 tetramers folded with immunodominant EBV peptides were used to detect EBV-specific CD8+ T cells by flow cytometry in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 24 pediatric liver and kidney transplant recipients. The expression of CD38 and CD45RO on EBV-specific, tetramer-binding cells was also examined in a subset of patients by immunofluorescent staining and flow cytometry.Tetramer-binding CD8+ T cells were identified in 21 of 24 transplant recipients. EBV-specific CD8+ T cells were detected as early as 4 weeks after transplant in EBV seronegative patients receiving an organ from an EBV seropositive donor. The frequencies (expressed as a percentage of the CD8+ T cells) of the tetramer-binding cells were HLA-B8-RAKFKQLL (BZLF1 lytic antigen peptide) tetramer, range=0.96 to 3.94%; HLA-B8-FLRGRAYGL (EBNA3A latent antigen peptide) tetramer, range=0.03 to 0.59%; and HLA-A2-GLCTLVAML (BMLF1 lytic antigen peptide) tetramer, range=0.06 to 0.76%. The majority of tetramer reactive cells displayed an activated/memory phenotype.Pediatric transplant recipients receiving immunosuppression can generate EBV-specific CD8+ T cells. Phenotypic and functional analysis of tetramer cells may prove useful in defining and monitoring EBV infection in the posttransplant patient.
View details for PubMedID 12352909