PD-1-Expressing SARS-CoV-2-Specific CD8+ T Cells Are Not Exhausted, but Functional in Patients with COVID-19

Min Seok Rha, Hye Won Jeong, Jae Hoon Ko, Seong Jin Choi, In Ho Seo, Jeong Seok Lee, Moa Sa, A. Reum Kim, Eun Jeong Joo, Jin Young Ahn, Jung Ho Kim, Kyoung Ho Song, Eu Suk Kim, Dong Hyun Oh, Mi Young Ahn, Hee Kyoung Choi, Ji Hoon Jeon, Jae Phil Choi, Hong Bin Kim, Young Keun KimSu Hyung Park, Won Suk Choi, Jun Yong Choi, Kyong Ran Peck, Eui Cheol Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Memory T cell responses have been demonstrated in COVID-19 convalescents, but ex vivo phenotypes of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells have been unclear. We detected SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells by MHC class I multimer staining and examined their phenotypes and functions in acute and convalescent COVID-19. Multimer+ cells exhibited early differentiated effector-memory phenotypes in the early convalescent phase. The frequency of stem-like memory cells was increased among multimer+ cells in the late convalescent phase. Cytokine secretion assays combined with MHC class I multimer staining revealed that the proportion of interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-producing cells was significantly lower among SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells than those specific to influenza A virus. Importantly, the proportion of IFN-γ-producing cells was higher in PD-1+ cells than PD-1 cells among multimer+ cells, indicating that PD-1-expressing, SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells are not exhausted, but functional. Our current findings provide information for understanding of SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T cells elicited by infection or vaccination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-52.e3
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan 12

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation under Project Number SSTF-BA1402-51 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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