Rapid single-cell identification of Epstein-Barr virus-specific T-cell receptors for cellular therapy


  • M.F. Lammoglia Cobo
  • C. Welters
  • L. Rosenberger
  • M. Leisegang
  • K. Dietze
  • C. Pircher
  • L. Penter
  • R. Gary
  • L. Bullinger
  • A. Takvorian
  • A. Moosmann
  • K. Dornmair
  • T. Blankenstein
  • T. Kammertöns
  • A. Gerbitz
  • L. Hansmann


  • Cytotherapy


  • Cytotherapy 24 (8): 818-826


  • BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with solid and hematopoietic malignancies. After allogeneic stem cell transplantation, EBV infection or reactivation represents a potentially life-threatening condition with no specific treatment available in clinical routine. In vitro expansion of naturally occurring EBV-specific T cells for adoptive transfer is time-consuming and influenced by the donor's T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire and requires a specific memory compartment that is non-existent in seronegative individuals. The authors present highly efficient identification of EBV-specific TCRs that can be expressed on human T cells and recognize EBV-infected cells. METHODS AND RESULTS: Mononuclear cells from six stem cell grafts were expanded in vitro with three HLA-B*35:01- or four HLA-A*02:01-presented peptides derived from six EBV proteins expressed during latent and lytic infection. Epitope-specific T cells expanded on average 42-fold and were single-cell-sorted and TCRαβ-sequenced. To confirm specificity, 11 HLA-B*35:01- and six HLA-A*02:01-restricted dominant TCRs were expressed on reporter cell lines, and 16 of 17 TCRs recognized their presumed target peptides. To confirm recognition of virus-infected cells and assess their value for adoptive therapy, three selected HLA-B*35:01- and four HLA-A*02:01-restricted TCRs were expressed on human peripheral blood lymphocytes. All TCR-transduced cells recognized EBV-infected lymphoblastoid cell lines. CONCLUSIONS: The authors' approach provides sets of EBV epitope-specific TCRs in two different HLA contexts. Resulting cellular products do not require EBV-seropositive donors, can be adjusted to cell subsets of choice with exactly defined proportions of target-specific T cells, can be tracked in vivo and will help to overcome unmet clinical needs in the treatment and prophylaxis of EBV reactivation and associated malignancies.