GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Title

Evolution of the T Cell Receptor Repertoire during and after Viral Infection: a Dissertation

Approval Date

May 1999

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Department

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Program in Immunology and Virology

Subjects

Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell; Viruses; Academic Dissertations

Abstract

The overall goal of this thesis is to examine how the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire evolves during and after viral infections. Previous studies had examined TCR usage of selected virus-specific T cell clones, but little was known about how a diverse T cell repertoire changes during the transition between an acute infection and a memory response. It was also unclear how the T cell repertoire evolves under conditions of persistent infections associated with clonal exhaustion. To address these issues I used as a model system the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection of mice, for which the T cell response is well-characterized. LCMV, strain Armstrong (LCMV-ARM), infection induces a strong CD8+ T cell response, which clears the virus and converts to a memory response. In contrast, high doses of LCMV clone 13 leads to persistent infections associated with T cell clonal exhaustion. These two extremes of T cell responses enable one to compare the evolution of the TCR repertoire under conditions where an acute T cell response converts to a memory response with that of T cell clonal exhaustion. In this thesis I analyzed the TCR repertoire usage directly ex vivo by the technique of CDR3 length spectratyping throughout the acute LCMV infection, into memory, after modulation by subsequent heterologous and homologous viral infections, and under conditions of T cell clonal exhaustion.

Kinetic studies on the frequencies of precursor cytotoxic T lymphocytes (PCTL) to the three LCMV immunodominant peptides had suggested that the virus-specific T cell repertoire becomes fixed by day 7 postinfection, when the virus is cleared. The pCTL data also showed that a high frequency of the LCMV-specific memory T cells remained stable throughout the lifetime of the mouse. To examine any changes of the TCR repertoire usage that may develop during the acute LCMV infection and into memory, the Vβ8 population was subjected to spectratype analyses, because Vβ8 represented a substantial amount of the LCMV-induced CD8+ T cells recognizing several LCMV-encoded peptides. Analyses of the Vβ8.1 spectratype showed that genetically identical mice generated remarkably different T cell responses, as reflected by different spectratypes and different TCR sequences in same-sized spectratype bands; a conserved CDR3 motif was, however, found within some same-sized bands. This indicated that meaningful studies on the evolution of the T cell repertoire required longitudinal studies within individual mice instead of comparisons between mice. Such longitudinal studies with peripheral blood (PB) samples showed that the virus-induced T cell repertoire changed little after viral clearance and during the silencing phase of the T cell response and that dominant spectratype peaks were preserved into long term memory. To determine the effect of secondary LCMV infection on the spectratype, the recalled LCMV-induced spectratypes were analyzed. Most of the dominant peaks detected in the primary infections remained present in the secondary infection. Some new peaks were also detected for the first time in the secondary infection, suggesting a further selection of the virus-induced T cell repertoire. The spectratype data support the concepts that the LCMV-induced T cell repertoire remains unchanged during the silencing phase after clearance of the virus and that the LCMV infection dramatically skews the host T cell repertoire in the memory state long after the virus is cleared.

Studies had shown that high doses of LCMV clone 13 induce a transient anti-viral CTL response followed by clonal exhaustion of T cells. To determine how the TCR repertoire evolves under conditions of persistent infections associated with T cell clonal exhaustion, the Vβ8.1 spectratypes were analyzed at various time points after the infection. In contrast to the stable LCMV-induced spectratype after viral clearance, continuous selection of the T cell repertoire occurred under conditions of persistent infections, as the T cell clones appeared and disappeared at different rates. The T cell repertoire ultimately returned to a Gaussian distribution under conditions of clonal exhaustion, indicating that clonal deletion occurs in the great majority of the virus-induced T cells.

To test the stability of the LCMV-induced TCR repertoire under conditions of subsequent heterologous viral infections, the recalled LCMV-induced spectratypes were examined in the presence or absence of intervening heterologous viruses. The results showed that the intervening heterologous viruses disrupted the recalled Vβ8.1-Jβ1.3 spectratype on secondary LCMV infection; this otherwise remained stable in the absence of intervening heterologous viruses. This result supports the hypothesis that subsequent heterologous viral infections disrupt the stable LCMV-induced T cell repertoire. To detennine whether a subset of the memory T cells was deleted by the IFN-induced apoptosis of memory T cells, the LCMV-immune spectratypes were analyzed before and after the injection of the IFN inducer, poly I:C. The LCMV-immune spectratypes remained relatively stable after poly I:C injection, suggesting that there is no selective protection or deletion of discrete memory T cell clones during the IFN-induced apoptosis.

In summary, the data in this thesis show that (i) the virus-induced T cell repertoire changes little after viral clearance and during the silencing phase of the T cell response, (ii) the LCMV infection dramatically skews the host T cell repertoire in the memory state, (iii) the evolution of the T cell repertoire occurs during secondary infections and under conditions of clonal exhaustion associated with persistent infections, (iv) genetically identical hosts generate different T cell responses to the same virus, and (v) intervening heterologous viral infections disrupt the recalled LCMV-induced T cell repertoire, but the LCMV-immune repertoire remained relatively stable upon the treatment of the IFN inducer, poly I:C.

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