Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been reported to elicit B and T cell immunity in infected patients. Despite the presence of antiviral immunity, many patients develop chronic infections leading to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver failure that can require transplantation. We have previously described the presence of HLA-A2-restricted, HCV NS3-reactive cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in the blood of HLA-A2- liver transplantation patients that received an HLA-A2+ liver allograft. These T cells are analogous to the "allospecific" T cells that have been described in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients. It has been speculated that allospecific T cells express high-affinity T cell receptors (TCRs). To determine if our HCV-reactive T cells expressed TCRs with relatively high affinity for antigen, we identified and cloned a TCR from an allospecific HLA-A2-restricted, HCV:NS3:1406-1415-reactive CD8+ T cell clone and expressed this HCV TCR in Jurkat cells. Tetramer binding to HCV TCR-transduced Jurkat cells required CD8 expression, whereas antigen recognition did not. In conclusion, based on the reactivity of the TCR-transduced Jurkat cells, we have identified a TCR that transfers anti-HCV reactivity to alternate effectors. These data suggest this high affinity HCV-specific TCR might have potential new immunotherapic implications.
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