Population analysis of antiviral T cell responses using MHC class I-peptide tetramers.
Komatsu H., Sierro S., V Cuero A., Klenerman P.
MHC class I-peptide tetrameric complexes ('tetramers') have revolutionized the study of antiviral CD8+ T cell responses. They allow accurate quantification of immune responses ex vivo independent of function, with high levels of sensitivity. They have revealed unexpectedly large frequencies of 'memory' T cell responses against viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and provided information about their phenotypic and functional variation. However, such studies have generally concentrated on limited numbers of individuals analysed in detail. To allow larger population-based studies, we devised a method for tetramer analysis using 50-100 microlitre blood volumes in a 96-well plate format. We adapted this method to study the effect of age on responses in a cohort of nearly 600 individuals to an immunodominant HLA-A2 restricted response to CMV pp65 (NLVPMVATV). We observed the phenomenon of steady 'memory inflation' with age, similar to recently observed longitudinal data from murine studies. These data show that tetramers can be used as population screening tools and could be used to study age-related, geographical or seasonal effects in a number of other viral infections.