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Antigen-primed cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) may express leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILRs) and natural killer receptors (NKRs). Published work suggests that expression of some of these receptors confers survival advantage, leading to the idea that cells expressing such receptors may accumulate as an antigen-specific response evolves. Here we tested this hypothesis by analyzing expression of CD85j (also known as LILRB1 or ILT2), KIRs, CD94, and CD161 by Epstein- Barr virus (EBV)-specific CTL during the primary and persistent phases of EBV infection in humans. During primary infection, few EBV-specific CTL expressed these receptors and this proportion was equally low in early persistent infection. Thus, expression of these molecules does not influence capacity to survive downregulation of the primary response. However, in donors persistently infected with EBV for many years, a significantly higher proportion of EBV-specific CTL expressed CD85j and NKRs, suggesting that cells expressing these receptors can accumulate with time. Using FACS analysis, we confirmed, at a single cell level, that expression of CD85j, defined by staining with the antibody VMP55, was associated with reduced capacity of EBV-specific CD8+ T cells to respond to antigen. Thus, in the later stages of persistent infection, protective immunity to EBV may be reduced due to the preferential accumulation of hyporesponsive EBV-specific CD8+ T cells.

Original publication




Journal article


Viral Immunol

Publication Date





513 - 522


Antigens, CD, Antigens, Surface, Antigens, Viral, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Epstein-Barr Virus Infections, Herpesvirus 4, Human, Humans, Immune Tolerance, In Vitro Techniques, Infectious Mononucleosis, Interferon-gamma, Lectins, C-Type, Leukocyte Immunoglobulin-like Receptor B1, Models, Immunological, NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily B, NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily D, Receptors, Immunologic, Receptors, KIR, Time Factors