Clonally Focused Public and Private T Cells in Resected Brain Tissue From Surgeries to Treat Children With Intractable Seizures

Julia W. Chang, Samuel D. Reyes, Emmanuelle Faure-Kumar, Sandi K. Lam, Michael W. Lawlor, Richard J. Leventer, Sean M. Lew, Paul J. Lockhart, Kathryn Pope, Howard L. Weiner, Noriko Salamon, Harry V. Vinters, Gary W. Mathern, Aria Fallah, Geoffrey C. Owens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Using a targeted transcriptomics approach, we have analyzed resected brain tissue from a cohort of 53 pediatric epilepsy surgery cases, and have found that there is a spectrum of involvement of both the innate and adaptive immune systems as evidenced by the differential expression of immune-specific genes in the affected brain tissue. The specimens with the highest expression of immune-specific genes were from two Rasmussen encephalitis cases, which is known to be a neuro-immunological disease, but also from tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), focal cortical dysplasia, and hemimegalencephaly surgery cases. We obtained T cell receptor (TCR) Vβ chain sequence data from brain tissue and blood from patients with the highest levels of T cell transcripts. The clonality indices and the frequency of the top 50 Vβ clonotypes indicated that T cells in the brain were clonally restricted. The top 50 Vβ clonotypes comprised both public and private (patient specific) clonotypes, and the TCR Vβ chain third complementarity region (CDR3) of the most abundant public Vβ clonotype in each brain sample was strikingly similar to a CDR3 that recognizes an immunodominant epitope in either human cytomegalovirus or Epstein Barr virus, or influenza virus A. We found that the frequency of 14 of the top 50 brain Vβ clonotypes from a TSC surgery case had significantly increased in brain tissue removed to control recurrent seizures 11 months after the first surgery. Conversely, we found that the frequency in the blood of 18 of the top 50 brain clonotypes from a second TSC patient, who was seizure free, had significantly decreased 5 months after surgery indicating that T cell clones found in the brain had contracted in the periphery after removal of the brain area associated with seizure activity and inflammation. However, the frequency of a public and a private clonotype significantly increased in the brain after seizures recurred and the patient underwent a second surgery. Combined single cell gene expression and TCR sequencing of brain-infiltrating leukocytes from the second surgery showed that the two clones were CD8 effector T cells, indicating that they are likely to be pathologically relevant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number664344
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Apr 6 2021


  • Rasmussen encephalitis
  • T cell receptor
  • epilepsy
  • focal cortical dysplasia
  • tuberous sclerosis complex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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