Identification and characterization of an Epstein-Barr virus-specific T- cell response in the pathologic tissue of a patient with Hodgkin's disease

R. Dolcetti, T. Frisan, J. Sjoberg, P. O. De Campos-Lima, P. Pisa, V. De Re, A. Gloghini, S. Rizzo, M. G. Masucci, M. Boiocchi

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Several lines of evidence indicate that an impairment of EBV-specific immune responses may contribute to the pathogenesis of Hodgkin's disease (HD). At present, however, it is not clear whether a defective immunity to EBV is a characteristic restricted to EBV-associated HD cases or a more generalized phenomenon, part of the inherent immune deficiency of HD patients. In this study, we have addressed this issue by analyzing EBV- specific responses in infiltrating T lymphocytes (TILs) from one HD biopsy, where the virus was confined to a small proportion of apparently normal lymphocytes. TIL cultures were established using low amounts of recombinant interleukin 2 and in the absence of specific stimulation, conditions that preferentially induce the proliferation of in vivo activated T cells. An EBV- specific cytotoxic component was revealed by the capacity of these TILs to lyse autologous EBV-positive lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) obtained by spontaneous transformation from the lesion but not HLA-mismatched LCLs and autologous phytohemagglutinin blasts. This cytotoxic activity closely resembled that of EBV-specific memory T cells, which may be reactivated from the blood lymphocytes of healthy donors by in vitro stimulation with autologous LCLs. The use of a panel of appropriately HLA-matched B95.8- transformed LCLs as targets in standard 51Cr release assays revealed EBV- specific cytotoxic responses to be restricted mainly through the A11 and B44 HLA alleles with a minor HLA-A26-restricted component. Using autologous fibroblasts infected with recombinant vaccinia viruses expressing the EBV latent antigens, the TIL culture was shown to recognize latent membrane protein 2 and, to a lesser extent, EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 6. In addition, a strong proliferative response was induced by coculture of TILs with autologous but not with allogeneic LCLs or autologous phytohemagglutinin blasts. Six CD4-positive, EBV-specific T-cell clones were isolated by limiting dilution. The study of cytokine mRNA expression, carried out by reverse transcriptase-assisted PCR, revealed that three of these T-cell clones expressed a Th0 phenotype, whereas 1 had a Th2 phenotype. These findings are consistent with the presence in this HD lesion of an ongoing immune response against EBV-carrying cells and suggest that the complex immune deficiency that characterizes HD patients probably does not include a generalized, constitutional defect of EBV-specific T-cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3675-3681
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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