Expansion of Cytotoxic CD4+ T Cells in the Lungs in Severe COVID-19
46 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021 Publication Status: Review CompleteMore...
The contributions of T cells infiltrating the lungs to SARS-CoV-2 clearance and disease progression are poorly understood. Although studies of CD8+ T cells in bronchoalveolar lavage and blood have suggested that these cells are exhausted in severe COVID-19, CD4+ T cells have not been systematically interrogated within the lung parenchyma. We establish here that cytotoxic CD4+ T cells (CD4+CTLs) are prominently expanded in the COVID-19 lung infiltrate. CD4+CTL numbers in the lung increase with disease severity and progression is accompanied by widespread HLA-DR expression on lung epithelial and endothelial cells, increased apoptosis of epithelial cells and tissue remodeling. Based on quantitative evidence for re-activation in the lung milieu, CD4+ CTLs are as likely to drive viral clearance as CD8+ T cells and may also be contributors to lung inflammation and eventually to fibrosis in severe COVID-19.
Funding: This work was supported by NIH U19 AI110495 to SP. Funding for these studies from the Massachusetts Consortium of Pathogen Readiness, the Mark and Lisa Schwartz Foundation and Enid Schwartz is also acknowledged.
Declaration of Interest: None to declare.
Ethical Approval: This study was performed with the approval of the Institutional Review Boards at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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