Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) specific for caprine arthritis-encephalitis virus (CAEV) were characterized using a colorimetric immunocytochemistry assay to measure surviving target cells. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from a CAEV-infected goat were cytotoxic to autologous, CAEV-infected dermal fibroblast target cells following stimulation of the lymphocytes with CAEV antigen. The lymphocytes were not cytotoxic to infected allogeneic target cells or to mock-infected autologous or allogeneic target cells. This CAEV antigen-specific, major histocompatibility complex-restricted cytotoxicity was mediated by CD8 lymphocytes as demonstrated by selective depletion with anti-CD8 antibody and complement. CTL primed with one isolate of CAEV (CAEV-Co) had no detectable activity against target cells infected with either of two neutralization variants and diminished activity against target cells infected with three other neutralization variants. This apparent variability of CTL-sensitive epitopes among CAEV isolates may contribute to CAEV escaping immune control and may complicate vaccine design.


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