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The conventional means of studying Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-induced cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) memory, by in vitro stimulation with the latently infected autologous lymphoblastoid cell line (LCL), has important limitations. First, it gives no information on memory to lytic cycle antigens; second, it preferentially amplifies the dominant components of latent antigen-specific memory at the expense of key subdominant reactivities. Here we describe an alternative approach, based on in vitro stimulation with epitope peptide-loaded dendritic cells (DCs), which allows one to probe the CTL repertoire for any individual reactivity of choice; this method proved significantly more efficient than stimulation with peptide alone. Using this approach we first show that reactivities to the immunodominant and subdominant lytic cycle epitopes identified by T cells during primary EBV infection are regularly detectable in the CTL memory of virus carriers; this implies that in such carriers chronic virus replication remains under direct T-cell control. We further show that subdominant latent cycle reactivities to epitopes in the latent membrane protein LMP2, though rarely undetectable in LCL-stimulated populations, can be reactivated by DC stimulation and selectively expanded as polyclonal CTL lines; the adoptive transfer of such preparations may be of value in targeting certain EBV-positive malignancies.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of virology

Publication Date





334 - 342


CRC Institute for Cancer Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TA United Kingdom.


Dendritic Cells, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Humans, Herpesvirus 4, Human, DNA-Binding Proteins, Trans-Activators, Viral Proteins, Viral Matrix Proteins, Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens, Immunodominant Epitopes, Immunologic Memory