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Virology. 2006 Aug 1;351(2):466-75. Epub 2006 May 11.

Long-lived memory T lymphocyte responses against SARS coronavirus nucleocapsid protein in SARS-recovered patients.

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Department of Immunology, Zhongshan Medical School, Sun Yat-sen University, No. 74 Zhongshan Road II, Guangzhou 510089, China.


The nucleocapsid (N) protein is a structural component of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and can induce antibody responses in SARS patients during infection. However, it is not known whether SARS-CoV N protein can induce a long persistence of memory T-cell response in human. In this study, we found that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from fully recovered SARS individuals rapidly produced IFN-gamma and IL-2 following stimulation with a pool of overlapping peptides that cover the entire N protein sequence. The N-specific IFN-gamma(+)CD4(+) T cells were mainly composed of CD45RA(-)CCR7(+)CD62L(-) cells, whereas IFN-gamma(+)CD8(+) memory T cells were mostly contained within CD45RA(+)CCR7(-)CD62L(-) cell population. Epitope mapping study indicated that a cluster of overlapping peptides located in the C-terminal region (amino acids [aa] 331 to 362) of N protein contained at least two different T-cell epitopes. The results indicated that human memory T-cell responses specific for SARS-CoV N protein could persist for 2 years in the absence of antigen, which would be a valuable for the design of effective vaccines against SARS-CoV and for basic studies of human T-cell memory.

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