Adoptive transfer of cytomegalovirus (CMV)-specific T cells derived from adult seropositive donors can effectively restore antiviral immunity after transplantation. However, CMV-seronegative donors lack CMV-specific memory T cells, which restricts the availability of virus-specific T cells for immunoprophylaxis. We demonstrate the feasibility of deriving CMV-specific T cells from naïve cells for T cell therapy. Naïve T cells primed to recognize CMV were restricted to different, atypical epitopes than T cells derived from CMV-seropositive individuals; however, these two cell populations had similar avidities. CMV-seropositive individuals also had T cells recognizing these atypical epitopes, but these cells had a lower avidity than those derived from the seronegative subjects, which suggests that high-avidity T cells to these epitopes may be lost over time. Indeed, recipients of cord blood (CB) grafts who did not develop CMV were found by clonotypic analysis to have T cells recognizing atypical CMVpp65 epitopes. Therefore, we examined unmanipulated CB units and found that T cells with T cell receptors restricted by atypical epitopes were the most common, which may explain why these T cells expanded. When infused to recipients, naïve donor-derived virus-specific T cells that recognized atypical epitopes were associated with prolonged periods of CMV-free survival and complete remission. These data suggest that naïve-derived T cells from seronegative patients may be an additional source of cells for CMV immunoprophylaxis.
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