Reactivation of the polyomavirus BK (BKV) causes polyomavirus nephropathy (PVN) in kidney transplant (KTx) recipients and may lead to loss of the renal allograft. We have identified two HLA-A*0201-restricted nine-amino-acid cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes of the BKV major capsid protein VP1, VP1p44, and VP1p108. Using tetramer staining assays, we showed that these epitopes were recognized by CTLs in 8 of 10 (VP1 p44) and 5 of 10 (VP1p108) HLA-A*0201+ healthy individuals, while both epitopes elicited a CTL response in 10 of 10 KTx recipients with biopsy-proven PVN, although at variable levels. After in vitro stimulation with the respective peptides, CTLs directed against VP1 p44 were more abundant than against VP1p108 in most healthy individuals, while the converse was true in KTx recipients with PVN, suggesting a shift in epitope immunodominance in the setting of active BKV infection. A strong CTL response in KTx recipients with PVN appeared to be associated with decreased BK viral load in blood and urine and low anti-BKV antibody titers, while a low or undetectable CTL response correlated with viral persistence and high anti-BKV antibody titers. These results suggest that this cellular immune response is present in most BKV-seropositive healthy individuals and plays an important role in the containment of BKV in KTx recipients with PVN. Interestingly, the BKV CTL epitopes bear striking homology with the recently described CTL epitopes of the other human polyomavirus JC (JCV), JCV VP1p36 and VP1p100. A high degree of epitope cross-recognition was present between BKV and corresponding JCV-speciflc CTLs, which indicates that the same population of cells is functionally effective against these two closely related viruses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science