Induction and exhaustion of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes visualized using soluble tetrameric major histocompatibility complex class I-peptide complexes
Gallimore A., Glithero A., Godkin A., Tissot AC., Plückthun A., Elliott T., Hengartner H., Zinkernagel R.
This study describes the construction of soluble major histocompatibility complexes consisting of the mouse class I molecule, H- 2D(b), chemically biotinylated β2 microglobulin and a peptide epitope derived from the glycoprotein (GP; amino acids 33-41) of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Tetrameric class I complexes, which were produced by mixing the class I complexes with phycoerythrin-labeled neutravidin, permitted direct analysis of virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) by flow cytometry. This technique was validated by (a) staining CD8+ cells in the spleens of transgenic mice that express a T cell receptor (TCR) specific for H-2D(b) in association with peptide GP33-41, and (b) by staining virus-specific CTLs in the cerebrospinal fluid of C57BL/6 (B6) mice that had been infected intracranially with LCMV-DOCILE. Staining of spleen cells isolated from B6 mice revealed that up to 40% of CD8+ T cells were GP33 tetramet+ during the initial phase of LCMV infection. In contrast, GP33 tetramers did not stain CD8+ T cells isolated from the spleens of B6 mice that had been infected 2 mo previously with LCMV above the background levels found in naive mice. The fate of virus-specific CTLs was analyzed during the acute phase of infection in mice challenged both intracranially and intravenously with a high or low dose of LCMV-DOCILE. The results of the study show that the outcome of infection by LCMV is determined by antigen load alone. Furthermore, the data indicate that deletion of virus-specific CTLs in the presence of excessive antigen is preceded by TCR downregulation and is dependent upon perforin.