van der Ploeg K, Kirosingh AS, Mori DAM, Chakraborty S, Hu Z, Sievers BL, Jacobson KB, Bonilla H, Parsonnet J, Andrews JR, Press KD, Ty MC, Ruiz-Betancourt DR, de la Parte L, Tan GS, Blish CA, Takahashi S, Rodriguez-Barraquer I, Greenhouse B, Singh U, Wang TT, Jagannathan P

TNF-α+ CD4+ T cells dominate the SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell response in COVID-19 outpatients and are associated with durable antibodies.

Cell reports. Medicine. 2022-06-21; 3.6: 100640.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-specific CD4 T cells are likely important in immunity against coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), but our understanding of CD4 longitudinal dynamics following infection and of specific features that correlate with the maintenance of neutralizing antibodies remains limited. Here, we characterize SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4 T cells in a longitudinal cohort of 109 COVID-19 outpatients enrolled during acute infection. The quality of the SARS-CoV-2-specific CD4 response shifts from cells producing interferon gamma (IFNγ) to tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) from 5 days to 4 months post-enrollment, with IFNγIL-21TNF-α CD4 T cells the predominant population detected at later time points. Greater percentages of IFNγIL-21TNF-α CD4 T cells on day 28 correlate with SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies measured 7 months post-infection (⍴ = 0.4, p = 0.01). mRNA vaccination following SARS-CoV-2 infection boosts both IFNγ- and TNF-α-producing, spike-protein-specific CD4 T cells. These data suggest that SARS-CoV-2-specific, TNF-α-producing CD4 T cells may play an important role in antibody maintenance following COVID-19.

PMID: 35588734