Detection of Epstein-Barr virus-specific memory CD4+ T cells using a peptide-based cultured enzyme-linked immunospot assay

Sandra A. Calarota, Antonella Chiesa, Paola Zelini, Giuditta Comolli, Lorenzo Minoli, Fausto Baldanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Approaches to evaluate T-cell responses to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) include enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT), which quantifies cells capable of immediate interferon-γ secretion upon antigen stimulation. However, evaluation of expandable EBV-specific memory T cells in an ELISPOT format has not been described previously. We quantified EBV-specific T-cell precursors with high proliferative capacity by using a peptide-based cultured interferon-γ ELISPOT assay. Standard and cultured ELISPOT responses to overlapping peptide pools (15-mers overlapping by 11 amino acids) covering the lytic (BZLF1 and BMRF1) and latent (EBNA1, EBNA3a, EBNA3b, EBNA3c, LMP1 and LMP2) EBV proteins were evaluated in 20 healthy subjects with remote EBV infection and, for comparison, in four solid organ transplant recipients. Cultured ELISPOT responses to both lytic and latent EBV antigens were significantly higher than standard ELISPOT responses. The distribution of EBV-specific T-cell responses detected in healthy virus carriers showed more consistent cultured ELISPOT responses compared with standard ELISPOT responses. T-cell responses quantified by cultured ELISPOT were mainly mediated by CD4+ T cells and a marked pattern of immunodominance to latent-phase antigens (EBNA1 > EBNA3 family antigens > LMP2 > LMP1) was shown. Both the magnitude and distribution of EBV-specific T-cell responses were altered in solid organ transplant recipients; in particular, cultured ELISPOT responses were almost undetectable in a lung-transplanted patient with EBV-associated diseases. Analysis of T-cell responses to EBV by ELISPOT assays might provide new insights into the pathogenesis of EBV-related diseases and serve as new tools in the monitoring of EBV infection in immunocompromised patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-544
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Immunocompetent subjects
  • Memory T cells
  • Solid organ transplant recipients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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