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Recombinant MHC Tetramers for Isolation of Virus-Specific CD8+ Cells from Healthy Donors: Potential Approach for Cell Therapy of Posttransplant Cytomegalovirus Infection

A. S. Vdovin1, S. Y. Filkin1, P. R. Yefimova1,2, S. A. Sheetikov1,2, N. M. Kapranov1, Y. O. Davydova1, E. S. Egorov3, E. G. Khamaganova1, M. Y. Drokov1, L. A. Kuzmina1, E. N. Parovichnikova1, G. A. Efimov1*, and V. G. Savchenko1

1National Research Center for Hematology, Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation, 125167 Moscow, Russia; E-mail: efimov.g@blood.ru, grigory@efimov.info

2Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Biology, 119991 Moscow, Russia

3Shemyakin–Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117997 Moscow, Russia

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received June 28, 2016; Revision received July 28, 2016
Patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation have a high risk of cytomegalovirus reactivation, which in the absence of T-cell immunity can result in the development of an acute inflammatory reaction and damage of internal organs. Transfusion of the virus-specific donor T-lymphocytes represents an alternative to a highly toxic and often ineffective antiviral therapy. Potentially promising cell therapy approach comprises transfusion of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, specific to the viral antigens, immediately after their isolation from the donor’s blood circulation without any in vitro expansion. Specific T-cells could be separated from potentially alloreactive lymphocytes using recombinant major histocompatibility complex (MHC) multimers, carrying synthetic viral peptides. Rapid transfusion of virus-specific T-cells to patients has several crucial advantages in comparison with methods based on the in vitro expansion of the cells. About 30% of hematopoietic stem cell donors and 46% of transplant recipients at the National Research Center for Hematology were carriers of the HLA-A*02 allele. Moreover, 94% of Russian donors have an immune response against the cytomegalovirus (CMV). Using recombinant HLA-A*02 multimers carrying an immunodominant cytomegalovirus peptide (NLV), we have shown that the majority of healthy donors have pronounced T-cell immunity against this antigen, whereas shortly after the transplantation the patients do not have specific T-lymphocytes. The donor cells have the immune phenotype of memory cells and can be activated and proliferate after stimulation with the specific antigen. Donor lymphocytes can be substantially enriched to significant purity by magnetic separation with recombinant MHC multimers and are not activated upon cocultivation with the antigen-presenting cells from HLA-incompatible donors without addition of the specific antigen. This study demonstrated that strong immune response to CMV of healthy donors and prevalence of HLA-A*02 allele in the Russian population make it possible to isolate a significant number of virus-specific cells using HLA-A*02–NLV multimers. After the transfusion, these cells should protect patients from CMV without development of allogeneic immune response.
KEY WORDS: cytomegalovirus, cell therapy, adoptive transfer, allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, MHC multimers

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297916110146