Resolving SARS-CoV-2 CD4<sup>+</sup> T cell specificity via reverse epitope discovery.

Mikhail V Pogorelyy, Elisa Rosati, Anastasia A Minervina, Robert C Mettelman, Alexander Scheffold, Andre Franke, Petra Bacher, Paul G Thomas
Year of publication:
Journal title abbreviated:
Cell Rep Med
Journal title long:
Cell reports. Medicine
Impact factor:
The current strategy to detect immunodominant T cell responses focuses on the antigen, employing large peptide pools to screen for functional cell activation. However, these approaches are labor and sample intensive and scale poorly with increasing size of the pathogen peptidome. T cell receptors (TCRs) recognizing the same epitope frequently have highly similar sequences, and thus, the presence of large sequence similarity clusters in the TCR repertoire likely identify the most public and immunodominant responses. Here, we perform a meta-analysis of large, publicly available single-cell and bulk TCR datasets from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-infected individuals to identify public CD4<sup>+</sup> responses. We report more than 1,200 αβTCRs forming six prominent similarity clusters and validate histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) restriction and epitope specificity predictions for five clusters using transgenic T cell lines. Collectively, these data provide information on immunodominant CD4<sup>+</sup> T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrate the utility of the reverse epitope discovery approach.