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Vaccination reshapes the virus-specific T cell repertoire in unexposed adults

By Yi-Gen Pan, Benjamas Aiamkitsumrit, Laurent Bartolo, Yifeng Wang, Criswell Lavery, Adam Marc, Patrick V. Holec, C. Garrett Rappazzo, Theresa Eilola, Phyllis A. Gimotty, Scott E. Hensley, Rustom Antia, Veronika I Zarnitsyna, Michael E Birnbaum, Laura F. Su

Posted 06 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.01.322958

How baseline T cell characteristics impact human T cell responses to novel pathogens remains unknown. Here, we address this question by studying the CD4+ T cell response in unexposed individuals to live attenuated yellow fever virus (YFV) vaccine. We quantified virus-specific population dynamics over time using class II peptide-MHC tetramers. Our data revealed that, even in the absence of known viral exposure, memory phenotype T cells were found in the majority of virus-specific precursors in healthy adults. Pre-existing memory T cells can be divided into two groups; abundant pre-vaccine populations that underwent limited overall expansion and rare cells that generated naive-like responses and preferentially contributed to the memory repertoire after vaccination. Single cell T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing was used to track the evolution of immune responses to different epitopes and showed an association between preservation of unexpanded TCRs before exposure and the robustness of post-vaccine responses. Instead of a further increase in pre-established TCR clones, vaccination boosted the representation of rare TCRs. Thus, vaccine restructures the abundance and clonal hierarchy of virus-specific T cells. Our results link T cell precursor states to post-exposure responses, identifying peripheral education of virus-specific repertoire as a key component of effective vaccination. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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