Increased Frequency of BK Virus-Specific Polyfunctional CD8+ T Cells Predict Successful Control of BK Viremia After Kidney Transplantation

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BackgroundBK virus infection remains an important cause of loss of allograft function after kidney transplantation. We sought to determine whether polyfunctional T cells secreting multiple cytokines simultaneously, which have been shown to be associated with viral control, could be detected early after start of BK viremia, which would provide insight into the mechanism of successful antiviral control.MethodsPeripheral blood mononuclear cells collected during episodes of BK viral replication were evaluated by multiparameter flow cytometry after stimulation by overlapping peptide pools of BK virus antigen to determine frequency of CD8+ and CD4+ T cells expressing 1 or more cytokines simultaneously, as well as markers of T-cell activation, exhaustion, and maturation.ResultsBK virus controllers, defined as those with episodes of BK viremia of 3 months or less, had an 11-fold increase in frequency of CD8+ polyfunctional T cells expressing multiple cytokines, as compared with patients with prolonged episodes of BK viremia. Patients with only low level BK viremia expressed low frequencies of polyfunctional T cells. Polyfunctional T cells were predominantly of the effector memory maturation subtype and expressed the cytotoxicity marker CD107a.ConclusionsNoninvasive techniques for immune assessment of peripheral blood can provide insight into the mechanism of control of BK virus replication and may allow for future patient risk stratification and customization of immune suppression at the onset of BK viremia.

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