Author(s): Gupta B, Iancu EM, Gannon PO, Wieckowski S, Baitsch L,
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Abstract Phenotypic and functional cell properties are usually analyzed at the level of defined cell populations but not single cells. Yet, large differences between individual cells may have important functional consequences. It is likely that T-cell-mediated immunity depends on the polyfunctionality of individual T cells, rather than the sum of functions of responding T-cell subpopulations. We performed highly sensitive single-cell gene expression profiling, allowing the direct ex vivo characterization of individual virus-specific and tumor-specific T cells from healthy donors and melanoma patients. We have previously shown that vaccination with the natural tumor peptide Melan-A-induced T cells with superior effector functions as compared with vaccination with the analog peptide optimized for enhanced HLA-A*0201 binding. Here we found that natural peptide vaccination induced tumor-reactive CD8 T cells with frequent coexpression of both memory/homing-associated genes (CD27, IL7R, EOMES, CXCR3, and CCR5) and effector-related genes (IFNG, KLRD1, PRF1, and GZMB), comparable with protective Epstein-Barr virus-specific and cytomegalovirus-specific T cells. In contrast, memory/homing-associated and effector-associated genes were less frequently coexpressed after vaccination with the analog peptide. Remarkably, these findings reveal a previously unknown level of gene expression diversity among vaccine-specific and virus-specific T cells with the simultaneous coexpression of multiple memory/homing-related and effector-related genes by the same cell. Such broad functional gene expression signatures within antigen-specific T cells may be critical for mounting efficient responses to pathogens or tumors. In summary, direct ex vivo high-resolution molecular characterization of individual T cells provides key insights into the processes shaping the functional properties of tumor-specific and virus-specific T cells.
This article was published in J Immunother
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine