SARS-CoV-2 epitope–specific CD4+ memory T cell responses across COVID-19 disease severity and antibody durability

MGH COVID-19 Collection & Processing Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


CD4+ T cells are central to long-term immunity against viruses through the functions of T helper 1 (TH1) and T follicular helper (TFH) cell subsets. To better understand the role of these subsets in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) immunity, we conducted a longitudinal study of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)–specific CD4+ T cell and antibody responses in convalescent individuals who seroconverted during the first wave of the pandemic in Boston, MA, USA, across a range of COVID-19 disease severities. Analyses of spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) epitope–specific CD4+ T cells using peptide and major histocompatibility complex class II (pMHCII) tetramers demonstrated expanded populations of T cells recognizing the different SARS-CoV-2 epitopes in most individuals compared with prepandemic controls. Individuals who experienced a milder disease course not requiring hospitalization had a greater percentage of circulating TFH (cTFH) and TH1 cells among SARS-CoV-2–specific cells. Analysis of SARS-CoV-2–specific CD4+ T cells responses in a subset of individuals with sustained anti-S antibody responses after viral clearance also revealed an increased proportion of memory cTFH cells. Our findings indicate that efficient early disease control also predicts favorable long-term adaptive immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabl9464
JournalScience Immunology
Issue number73
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

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