CD8+ T cells are known to be important in clearing herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections. However, investigating the specific antiviral mechanisms employed by HSV-2-specific T cell populations is limited by a lack of reagents such as CD8+ T cell epitopes and specific tetramers. Using a combination of intracellular cytokine staining flow cytometry and ELISpot methods, we functionally characterized peripheral HSV-2-specific CD8+ T cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) that recognize 14 selected HSV-2 open-reading frames (ORFs) from 55 HSV-2 seropositive persons; within these ORFs, we subsequently identified more than 20 unique CD8+ T cell epitopes. CD8+ T cells to HSV-2 exhibited significant heterogeneity in their functional characteristics, proliferation, production of inflammatory cytokines, and potential to degranulate ex vivo. The diversity in T cell response in these ex vivo assessments offers the potential of defining immune correlates of HSV-2 reactivation in humans.
Keywords: HSV-2, T cells, antigens/peptides/epitopes, virus