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Microbes Infect. 2006 Aug;8(9-10):2424-31. Epub 2006 Jun 30.

Human memory T cell responses to SARS-CoV E protein.

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


E protein is a membrane component of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Disruption of E protein may reduce viral infectivity. Thus, the SARS-CoV E protein is considered a potential target for the development of antiviral drugs. However, the cellular immune responses to E protein remain unclear in humans. 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 9 peptides overlapping the entire E protein sequence. Analysis of the immune responses by flow cytometry showed that both CD4+ and CD8+T cells were involved in the SARS-CoV E-specific immune responses after stimulation with SARS-CoV E peptides. Moreover, the majority of IFN-gamma+CD4+T cells were central memory cells expressing CD45RO+CCR7+CD62L-; whereas IFN-gamma+CD8+ memory T cells were mostly effector memory cells expressing CD45RO-CCR7-CD62L-. The results of T-cell responses to 9 individual peptides indicated that the E protein contained at least two major T cell epitopes (E2 amino acid [aa] 9-26 and E5-6: aa 33-57) which were important in eliciting cellular immune response to SARS-CoV E protein in humans.

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