Purpose: Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is a highly aggressive malignancy of T cells caused by human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Recent clinical studies have suggested that allogeneic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) improves the clinical course of ATL by harnessing a graft-versus-ATL effect, and that donor-derived HTLV-1 Tax-specific CD8 + cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) contribute to the graft-versus-ATL effect after HSCT. However, little is known about the immunological characteristics of Tax-specific CTLs in ATL patients who underwent HSCT. Methods: We serially analyzed frequencies, differentiation, functions and clonal dynamics of Tax-specific CTLs in paired samples of peripheral blood (PB) and bone marrow (BM) from an ATL patient after HSCT at the single-cell level. We used flowcytometric and single-cell T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire analysis methods without culture steps. Results: Donor-derived Tax-specific CTLs effectively suppressed HTLV-1 replication in both PB and BM at least during chronic graft-versus-host disease after HSCT. Furthermore, Tax-specific CTLs had comparable properties between BM and PB, except for preferential accumulation in BM rather than PB. Tax-specific CTLs persistently existed as less-differentiated CD45RA-CCR7- effector memory CTLs based on predominant phenotypes of CD27+, CD28+/- and CD57+/-. Our approach using single-cell TCR repertoire analysis method showed highly restricted oligoclonal responses of Tax-specific CTLs, and TCR BV7- or BV30- expressing two predominant CTL clones persistently existed and maintained strong cytotoxic activities against HTLV-1 in both PB and BM over three years after HSCT. Conclusions: These findings about Tax-specific CTLs provide insights into future directions for studies on immunotherapy against ATL.
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