Events during primary HIV-1 infection have been shown to be critical for the subsequent rate of disease progression. Early control of viral replication, resolution of clinical symptoms and development of a viral set point have been associated with the emergence of HIV-specific CD8 T cell responses. Here we assessed which particular HIV-specific CD8 T cell responses contribute to long-term control of HIV-1. A total of 620 individuals with primary HIV-1 infection were screened by gamma interferon (IFN-?) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay for HLA class I-restricted, epitope-specific CD8 T cell responses using optimally defined epitopes approximately 2 months after initial presentation. The cohort was predominantly male (97%) and Caucasian (83%) (Fiebig stages II/III [n = 157], IV [n = 64], V [n = 286], and VI [n = 88] and Fiebig stage not determined [n = 25]). Longitudinal viral loads, CD4 count, and time to ART were collected for all patients. We observed strong associations between viral load at baseline (initial viremia) and the established early viral set points (P < 0.0001). Both were significantly associated with HLA class I genotypes (P = 0.0009). While neither the breadth nor the magnitude of HIV-specific CD8 T cell responses showed an influence on the early viral set point, a broader HIV-specific CD8 T cell response targeting epitopes within HIV-1 Gag during primary HIV-1 infection was associated with slower disease progression. Moreover, the induction of certain HIV-specific CD8 T cell responses-but not others-significantly influenced the time to ART initiation. Individual epitope-specific CD8 T cell responses contribute significantly to HIV-1 disease control, demonstrating that the specificity of the initial HIV-specific CD8 T cell response rather than the restricting HLA class I molecule alone is a critical determinant of antiviral function.
Fc-related antibody activities, such as antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), or more broadly, antibody-mediated cellular viral inhibition (ADCVI), play a role in curbing early SIV viral replication, are enriched in human long-term infected nonprogressors, and could potentially contribute to protection from infection. However, little is known about the mechanism by which such humoral immune responses are naturally induced following infection. Here, we focused on the early evolution of the functional antibody response, largely driven by the Fc portion of the antibody, in the context of the evolving binding and neutralizing antibody response, which is driven mainly by the antibody-binding fragment (Fab). We show that ADCVI/ADCC-inducing responses in humans are rapidly generated following acute HIV-1 infection, peak at approximately 6 months postinfection, but decay rapidly in the setting of persistent immune activation, as Fab-related activities persistently increase. Moreover, the loss of Fc activity occurred in synchrony with a loss of HIV-specific IgG3 responses. Our data strongly suggest that Fc- and Fab-related antibody functions are modulated in a distinct manner following acute HIV infection. Vaccination strategies intended to optimally induce both sets of antiviral antibody activities may, therefore, require a fine tuning of the inflammatory response.
Effector CD4 T cell responses have been shown to be critically involved in the containment and clearance of viral pathogens. However, their involvement in the pathogenesis of HIV infection is less clear, given their additional role as preferred viral targets. We previously demonstrated that the presence of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses is somewhat associated with HIV control and that specific CD4 T cell functions, such as direct cytolytic activity, can contribute to control of HIV viremia. However, little is known about how the induction of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses during acute HIV infection influences disease progression and whether responses induced during the early phase of infection are preferentially depleted. We therefore longitudinally assessed, in a cohort of 55 acutely HIV-infected individuals, HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses from acute to chronic infection. Interestingly, we found that the breadth, magnitude, and protein dominance of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses remained remarkably stable over time. Moreover, we found that the epitopes targeted at a high frequency in acute HIV infection were recognized at the same frequency by HIV-specific CD4 T cells in chronic HIV infection. Interestingly the induction of Gag-specific CD4 T cell responses in acute HIV infection was significantly inversely correlated with viral set point in chronic HIV infection (R = -0.5; P = 0.03), while the cumulative contribution of Env-specific CD4 T cell responses showed the reverse effect. Moreover, individuals with HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses dominantly targeting Gag over Env in acute HIV infection remained off antiretroviral therapy significantly longer (P = 0.03; log rank). Thus, our data suggest that the induction of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses during acute HIV infection is beneficial overall and does not fuel disease progression.
The human phase 2B RV144 ALVAC-HIV vCP1521/AIDSVAX B/E vaccine trial, held in Thailand, resulted in an estimated 31.2% efficacy against HIV infection. By contrast, vaccination with VAX003 (consisting of only AIDSVAX B/E) was not protective. Because protection within RV144 was observed in the absence of neutralizing antibody activity or cytotoxic T cell responses, we speculated that the specificity or qualitative differences in Fc-effector profiles of nonneutralizing antibodies may have accounted for the efficacy differences observed between the two trials. We show that the RV144 regimen elicited nonneutralizing antibodies with highly coordinated Fc-mediated effector responses through the selective induction of highly functional immunoglobulin G3 (IgG3). By contrast, VAX003 elicited monofunctional antibody responses influenced by IgG4 selection, which was promoted by repeated AIDSVAX B/E protein boosts. Moreover, only RV144 induced IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies targeting the crown of the HIV envelope V2 loop, albeit with limited coverage of breakthrough viral sequences. These data suggest that subclass selection differences associated with coordinated humoral functional responses targeting strain-specific protective V2 loop epitopes may underlie differences in vaccine efficacy observed between these two vaccine trials.
Inducing cross-reactive broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) responses to HIV through vaccination remains an insurmountable challenge. T follicular helper (TFH) cells are fundamental for the development of antigen-specific antibody responses and therefore crucial for anti-HIV vaccine design. Here, we review recent studies supporting an intricate involvement of TFH cells in HIV pathogenesis and bNAb development during HIV infection. We also examine emerging data suggesting that TFH cell responses may be traceable in peripheral blood, and discuss the implications of these findings in the context of vaccine design and future research in TFH cell immunobiology.
Recent immune correlates analysis from the RV144 vaccine trial has renewed interest in the role of non-neutralizing antibodies in mediating protection from infection. While neutralizing antibodies have proven difficult to induce through vaccination, extra-neutralizing antibodies, such as those that mediate antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), are associated with long-term control of infection. However, while several non-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies have been tested for their protective efficacy in vivo, no studies to date have tested the protective activity of naturally produced polyclonal antibodies from individuals harboring potent ADCC activity. Because ADCC-inducing antibodies are highly enriched in elite controllers (EC), we passively transferred highly functional non-neutralizing polyclonal antibodies, purified from an EC, to assess the potential impact of polyclonal non-neutralizing antibodies on a stringent SHIV-SF162P3 challenge in rhesus monkeys. Passive transfer of a low-dose of ADCC inducing antibodies did not protect from infection following SHIV-SF162P3 challenge. Passively administered antibody titers and gp120-specific, but not gp41-specific, ADCC and antibody induced phagocytosis (ADCP) were detected in the majority of the monkeys, but did not correlate with post infection viral control. Thus these data raise the possibility that gp120-specific ADCC activity alone may not be sufficient to control viremia post infection but that other specificities or Fc-effector profiles, alone or in combination, may have an impact on viral control and should be tested in future passive transfer experiments.
HLA-B alleles are associated with viral control in chronic HIV-1 infection, however, their role in primary HIV-1 disease is unclear. This study sought to determine the role of HLA-B alleles in viral control during the acute phase of HIV-1 infection and establishment of the early viral load set point (VLSP).
The contribution of HLA class II-restricted CD4(+) T cell responses to HIV immune control is poorly defined. Here, we delineated previously uncharacterized peptide-DRB1 restrictions in functional assays and analyzed the host genetic effects of HLA-DRB1 alleles on HIV viremia in a large cohort of HIV controllers and progressors. We found distinct stratifications in the effect of HLA-DRB1 alleles on HIV viremia, with HLA-DRB1*15:02 significantly associated with low viremia and HLA-DRB1*03:01 significantly associated with high viremia. Notably, a subgroup of HLA-DRB1 variants linked with low viremia showed the ability to promiscuously present a larger breadth of peptides with lower functional avidity when compared to HLA-DRB1 variants linked with high viremia. Our data provide systematic evidence that HLA-DRB1 variant expression has a considerable impact on the control of HIV replication, an effect that seems to be mediated primarily by the protein specificity of CD4(+) T cell responses to HIV Gag and Nef.
While the induction of a neutralizing antibody response against HIV remains a daunting goal, data from both natural infection and vaccine-induced immune responses suggest that it may be possible to induce antibodies with enhanced Fc effector activity and improved antiviral control via vaccination. However, the specific features of naturally induced HIV-specific antibodies that allow for the potent recruitment of antiviral activity and the means by which these functions are regulated are poorly defined. Because antibody effector functions are critically dependent on antibody Fc domain glycosylation, we aimed to define the natural glycoforms associated with robust Fc-mediated antiviral activity. We demonstrate that spontaneous control of HIV and improved antiviral activity are associated with a dramatic shift in the global antibody-glycosylation profile toward agalactosylated glycoforms. HIV-specific antibodies exhibited an even greater frequency of agalactosylated, afucosylated, and asialylated glycans. These glycoforms were associated with enhanced Fc-mediated reduction of viral replication and enhanced Fc receptor binding and were consistent with transcriptional profiling of glycosyltransferases in peripheral B cells. These data suggest that B cell programs tune antibody glycosylation actively in an antigen-specific manner, potentially contributing to antiviral control during HIV infection.
CD4(+) T cells can perform a panoply of tasks to shape an effective response against a pathogen. Limited attention has been paid to the potential importance of functional CD4(+) T cell responses in the context of the development of next-generation vaccines, including HIV vaccines. Many CD4(+) T cell functions are newly appreciated and only partially understood. A workshop was held as a forum to bring together a small group of experts to exchange ideas on the role of CD4(+) T cells in developing durable functional antibody responses, via follicular helper T cells, as well as on the roles of CD4(+) T cells in other aspects of protective immunity. Here we discuss whether CD4(+) T cell responses may represent a beneficial component of an efficacious HIV vaccine.
A successful prophylactic vaccine is characterized by long-lived immunity, which is critically dependent on CD4 T cell-mediated helper signals. Indeed, most licensed vaccines induce antigen-specific CD4 T cell responses, in addition to high-affinity antibodies. However, despite the important role of CD4 T cells in vaccine design and natural infection, few studies have characterized HIV-specific CD4 T cells due to their preferential susceptibility to HIV infection. To establish at the population level the impact of HIV-specific CD4 T cells on viral control and define the specificity of HIV-specific CD4 T cell peptide targeting, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of these responses to the entire HIV proteome in 93 subjects at different stages of HIV infection. We show that HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses were detectable in 92% of individuals and that the breadth of these responses showed a significant inverse correlation with the viral load (P = 0.009, R = -0.31). In particular, CD4 T cell responses targeting Gag were robustly associated with lower levels of viremia (P = 0.0002, R = -0.45). Importantly, differences in the immunodominance profile of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses distinguished HIV controllers from progressors. Furthermore, Gag/Env ratios were a potent marker of viral control, with a high frequency and magnitude of Gag responses and low proportion of Env responses associated with effective immune control. At the epitope level, targeting of three distinct Gag peptides was linked to spontaneous HIV control (P = 0.60 to 0.85). Inclusion of these immunogenic proteins and peptides in future HIV vaccines may act as a critical cornerstone for enhancing protective T cell responses.
Pediatric HIV-1 infection is characterized by rapid disease progression and without antiretroviral therapy (ART), more than 50% of infected children die by the age of 2 years. However, a small subset of infected children progresses slowly to disease in the absence of ART. This study aimed to identify functional characteristics of HIV-1-specific T cell responses that distinguish children with rapid and slow disease progression. Fifteen perinatally HIV-infected children (eight rapid and seven slow progressors) were longitudinally studied to monitor T cell polyfunctionality. HIV-1-specific interferon (IFN)-?(+) CD8(+) T cell responses gradually increased over time but did not differ between slow and rapid progressors. However, polyfunctional HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cell responses, as assessed by the expression of four functions (IFN-?, CD107a, TNF-?, MIP-1?), were higher in slow compared to rapid progressors (p=0.05) early in infection, and was associated with slower subsequent disease progression. These data suggest that the quality of the HIV-specific CD8(+) T cell response is associated with the control of disease in children as has been shown in adult infection.
Under persistent antigenic stimulation, virus-specific CD8? T cells become increasingly dysfunctional and up-regulate several inhibitory molecules such as killer lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1). Here, we demonstrate that HIV-1 antigen-specific T cells from subjects with chronic-progressive HIV-1 infection have significantly elevated KLRG1 expression (P < .001); show abnormal distribution of E-cadherin, the natural ligand of KLRG1, in the intestinal mucosa; and have elevated levels of systemic soluble E-cadherin (sE-cadherin) that significantly correlate with HIV-1 viral load (R = 0.7, P = .004). We furthermore demonstrate that in the presence of sE-cadherin, KLRG1(hi) HIV-1-specific CD8? T cells are impaired in their ability to respond by cytokine secretion on antigenic stimulation (P = .002) and to inhibit viral replication (P = .03) in vitro. Thus, these data suggest a critical mechanism by which the disruption of the intestinal epithelium associated with HIV-1 leads to increased systemic levels of sE-cadherin, which inhibits the effector functions of KLRG1(hi)-expressing HIV-1-specific CD8? T cells systemically.
It is generally believed that the role of CD4(+) T cells is to coordinate the different arms of the adaptive immune system to shape an effective response against a pathogen and regulate nonessential or deleterious activities. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that effector CD4(+) T cells can directly display potent antiviral activity themselves. The presence of cytolytic CD4(+) T cells has been demonstrated in the immune response to numerous viral infections in both humans and in animal models and it is likely that they play a critical role in the control of viral replication in vivo. This article describes the current research on virus-specific cytolytic CD4(+) T cells, with a focus on HIV-1 infection and the implications that this immune response has for vaccine design.
Infectious and inflammatory diseases have repeatedly shown strong genetic associations within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC); however, the basis for these associations remains elusive. To define host genetic effects on the outcome of a chronic viral infection, we performed genome-wide association analysis in a multiethnic cohort of HIV-1 controllers and progressors, and we analyzed the effects of individual amino acids within the classical human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins. We identified >300 genome-wide significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the MHC and none elsewhere. Specific amino acids in the HLA-B peptide binding groove, as well as an independent HLA-C effect, explain the SNP associations and reconcile both protective and risk HLA alleles. These results implicate the nature of the HLA-viral peptide interaction as the major factor modulating durable control of HIV infection.
Functional defects in cytotoxic CD8(+) T cell responses arise in chronic human viral infections, but the mechanisms involved are not well understood. In mice, CD4 cell-mediated interleukin-21 (IL-21) production is necessary for the maintenance of CD8(+) T cell function and control of persistent viral infections. To investigate the potential role of IL-21 in a chronic human viral infection, we studied the rare subset of HIV-1 controllers, who are able to spontaneously control HIV-1 replication without treatment. HIV-specific triggering of IL-21 by CD4(+) T cells was significantly enriched in these persons (P = 0.0007), while isolated loss of IL-21-secreting CD4(+) T cells was characteristic for subjects with persistent viremia and progressive disease. IL-21 responses were mediated by recognition of discrete epitopes largely in the Gag protein, and expansion of IL-21(+) CD4(+) T cells in acute infection resulted in lower viral set points (P = 0.002). Moreover, IL-21 production by CD4(+) T cells of HIV controllers enhanced perforin production by HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cells from chronic progressors even in late stages of disease, and HIV-1-specific effector CD8(+) T cells showed an enhanced ability to efficiently inhibit viral replication in vitro after IL-21 binding. These data suggest that HIV-1-specific IL-21(+) CD4(+) T cell responses might contribute to the control of viral replication in humans and are likely to be of great importance for vaccine design.
Exceedingly high viral loads and rapid loss of CD4(+) T cells in all tissue compartments are a hallmark of acute human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, which is often accompanied by clinical symptoms such as fever, maculopapular rash, and/or lymphadenopathy. The resolution of the clinical symptoms and the subsequent decrease in plasma viremia are associated with the emergence of HIV-1-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell responses. The remarkable early inhibition of viremia by CD8(+) T cells appears to be precipitated by only a limited number of specific CD8(+) T cell responses, and the plasma viremia is reduced to a "set point" level. Over time, the breadth and magnitude of CD8(+) T cell responses increase, but without a change in the control of viral replication or further reduction in the viral set point. Moreover, the early viral set point, consequent on the first CD8(+) T cell responses, is highly predictive of the later course of disease progression. Thus, HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cell responses in acute HIV-1 infection appear uniquely able to efficiently suppress viral replication, whereas CD8(+) T cell responses generated in the chronic phase of infection appear often impaired.
Mutations that allow escape from CD8 T-cell responses are common in HIV-1 and may attenuate pathogenesis by reducing viral fitness. While this has been demonstrated for individual cases, a systematic investigation of the consequence of HLA class I-mediated selection on HIV-1 in vitro replication capacity (RC) has not been undertaken. We examined this question by generating recombinant viruses expressing plasma HIV-1 RNA-derived Gag-Protease sequences from 66 acute/early and 803 chronic untreated subtype B-infected individuals in an NL4-3 background and measuring their RCs using a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter CD4 T-cell assay. In acute/early infection, viruses derived from individuals expressing the protective alleles HLA-B*57, -B*5801, and/or -B*13 displayed significantly lower RCs than did viruses from individuals lacking these alleles (P < 0.05). Furthermore, acute/early RC inversely correlated with the presence of HLA-B-associated Gag polymorphisms (R = -0.27; P = 0.03), suggesting a cumulative effect of primary escape mutations on fitness during the first months of infection. At the chronic stage of infection, no strong correlations were observed between RC and protective HLA-B alleles or with the presence of HLA-B-associated polymorphisms restricted by protective alleles despite increased statistical power to detect these associations. However, RC correlated positively with the presence of known compensatory mutations in chronic viruses from B*57-expressing individuals harboring the Gag T242N mutation (n = 50; R = 0.36; P = 0.01), suggesting that the rescue of fitness defects occurred through mutations at secondary sites. Additional mutations in Gag that may modulate the impact of the T242N mutation on RC were identified. A modest inverse correlation was observed between RC and CD4 cell count in chronic infection (R = -0.17; P < 0.0001), suggesting that Gag-Protease RC could increase over the disease course. Notably, this association was stronger for individuals who expressed B*57, B*58, or B*13 (R = -0.27; P = 0.004). Taken together, these data indicate that certain protective HLA alleles contribute to early defects in HIV-1 fitness through the selection of detrimental mutations in Gag; however, these effects wane as compensatory mutations accumulate in chronic infection. The long-term control of HIV-1 in some persons who express protective alleles suggests that early fitness hits may provide lasting benefits.
Primary HIV-1 infection (PHI) is marked by a flu-like syndrome and high levels of viremia that decrease to a viral set point with the first emergence of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Here, we investigated in a large cohort of 527 subjects the immunodominance pattern of the first virus-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses developed during PHI in comparison to CTL responses in chronic infection and demonstrated a distinct relationship between the early virus-specific CTL responses and the viral set point, as well as the slope of CD4+ T-cell decline. CTL responses during PHI followed clear hierarchical immunodominance patterns that were lost during the transition to chronic infection. Importantly, the immunodominance patterns of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-specific CTL responses detected in primary, but not in chronic, HIV-1 infection were significantly associated with the subsequent set point of viral replication. Moreover, the preservation of the initial CD8+ T-cell immunodominance patterns from the acute into the chronic phase of infection was significantly associated with slower CD4+ T-cell decline. Taken together, these data show that the specificity of the initial CTL response to HIV is critical for the subsequent control of viremia and have important implications for the rational selection of antigens for future HIV-1 vaccines.
Manifestations of viral infections can differ between women and men, and marked sex differences have been described in the course of HIV-1 disease. HIV-1-infected women tend to have lower viral loads early in HIV-1 infection but progress faster to AIDS for a given viral load than men. Here we show substantial sex differences in the response of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) to HIV-1. pDCs derived from women produce markedly more interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) in response to HIV-1-encoded Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) ligands than pDCs derived from men, resulting in stronger secondary activation of CD8(+) T cells. In line with these in vitro studies, treatment-naive women chronically infected with HIV-1 had considerably higher levels of CD8(+) T cell activation than men after adjusting for viral load. These data show that sex differences in TLR-mediated activation of pDCs may account for higher immune activation in women compared to men at a given HIV-1 viral load and provide a mechanism by which the same level of viral replication might result in faster HIV-1 disease progression in women compared to men. Modulation of the TLR7 pathway in pDCs may therefore represent a new approach to reduce HIV-1-associated pathology.
The interferon (IFN)-gamma Elispot assay has been widely used as a general screening method for the quantification and characterization of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific CD8+ T cell responses. However, the predictive power of this assay has been challenged due to the lack of efficacy of a recently conducted HIV vaccine phase IIb trial, despite induction of robust Elispot responses. This finding plus improvements in multiparameter flow cytometry, which has the potential advantage of simultaneously quantifying numerous parameters, raises questions regarding the future role of IFN-gamma Elispot as a gateway to moving forward with clinical trials of candidate vaccines. However, the IFN-gamma Elispot assay has been, unlike other techniques, evaluated and validated in several proficiency panels and is advantageous in cost-effectively detecting and mapping T-cell responses. Here we present a detailed protocol for a state-of-the-art 3-d IFN-gamma Elispot assay and review further advantages and disadvantages of this method for the characterization of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses.
The diversity of HIV-1 and human genetics complicates our ability to determine the impact of treatment during primary HIV-1 infection on disease outcome. Here, we show, in a small group infected with virtually identical HIV-1 strains and treated during primary HIV-1 infection, that patients expressing protective human leucocyte antigen alleles had lower viral loads following treatment discontinuation. These data suggest that genetic factors play an important role in the outcome of HIV-1 infection despite early therapy.
The control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) associated with particular HLA class I alleles suggests that some CD8(+) T-cell responses may be more effective than others at containing HIV-1. Unfortunately, substantial diversities in the breadth, magnitude, and function of these responses have impaired our ability to identify responses most critical to this control. It has been proposed that CD8 responses targeting conserved regions of the virus may be particularly effective, since the development of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) escape mutations in these regions may significantly impair viral replication. To address this hypothesis at the population level, we derived near-full-length viral genomes from 98 chronically infected individuals and identified a total of 76 HLA class I-associated mutations across the genome, reflective of CD8 responses capable of selecting for sequence evolution. The majority of HLA-associated mutations were found in p24 Gag, Pol, and Nef. Reversion of HLA-associated mutations in the absence of the selecting HLA allele was also commonly observed, suggesting an impact of most CTL escape mutations on viral replication. Although no correlations were observed between the number or location of HLA-associated mutations and protective HLA alleles, limiting the analysis to mutations selected by acute-phase immunodominant responses revealed a strong positive correlation between mutations at conserved residues and protective HLA alleles. These data suggest that control of HIV-1 may be associated with acute-phase CD8 responses capable of selecting for viral escape mutations in highly conserved regions of the virus, supporting the inclusion of these regions in the design of an effective vaccine.
A dominance of Gag-specific CD8+ T cell responses is significantly associated with a lower viral load in individuals with chronic, untreated clade C human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. This association has not been investigated in terms of Gag-specific CD4+ T cell responses, nor have clade C HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cell epitopes, likely a vital component of an effective global HIV-1 vaccine, been identified.
Despite numerous attempts over many years to develop an HIV vaccine based on classical strategies, none has convincingly succeeded to date. A number of approaches are being pursued in the field, including building upon possible efficacy indicated by the recent RV144 clinical trial, which combined two HIV vaccines. Here, we argue for an approach based, in part, on understanding the HIV envelope spike and its interaction with broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) at the molecular level and using this understanding to design immunogens as possible vaccines. BnAbs can protect against virus challenge in animal models, and many such antibodies have been isolated recently. We further propose that studies focused on how best to provide T cell help to B cells that produce bnAbs are crucial for optimal immunization strategies. The synthesis of rational immunogen design and immunization strategies, together with iterative improvements, offers great promise for advancing toward an HIV vaccine.
HIV targets CD4 T cells, which are required for the induction of high-affinity antibody responses and the formation of long-lived B cell memory. The depletion of antigen-specific CD4 T cells during HIV infection is therefore believed to impede the development of protective B cell immunity. Although several different HIV-related B cell dysfunctions have been described, the role of CD4 T follicular helper (TFH) cells in HIV infection remains unknown. Here, we assessed HIV-specific TFH responses in the lymph nodes of treatment-naive and antiretroviral-treated HIV-infected individuals. Strikingly, both the bulk TFH and HIV-specific TFH cell populations were significantly expanded in chronic HIV infection and were highly associated with viremia. In particular, GAG-specific TFH cells were detected at significantly higher levels in the lymph nodes compared with those of GP120-specific TFH cells and showed preferential secretion of the helper cytokine IL-21. In addition, TFH cell expansion was associated with an increase of germinal center B cells and plasma cells as well as IgG1 hypersecretion. Thus, our study suggests that high levels of HIV viremia drive the expansion of TFH cells, which in turn leads to perturbations of B cell differentiation, resulting in dysregulated antibody production.
T cell dysfunction in the presence of ongoing antigen exposure is a cardinal feature of chronic viral infections with persistent high viremia, including HIV-1. Although interleukin-10 (IL-10) has been implicated as an important mediator of this T cell dysfunction, the regulation of IL-10 production in chronic HIV-1 infection remains poorly understood. We demonstrated that IL-10 is elevated in the plasma of individuals with chronic HIV-1 infection and that blockade of IL-10 signaling results in a restoration of HIV-1-specific CD4 T cell proliferation, gamma interferon (IFN-?) secretion, and, to a lesser extent, IL-2 production. Whereas IL-10 blockade leads to restoration of IFN-? secretion by HIV-1-specific CD4 T cells in all categories of subjects investigated, significant enhancement of IL-2 production and improved proliferation of CD4 T helper cells are restricted to viremic individuals. In peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), this IL-10 is produced primarily by CD14(+) monocytes, but its production is tightly controlled by regulatory T cells (Tregs), which produce little IL-10 directly. When Tregs are depleted from PBMCs of viremic individuals, the effect of the IL-10 signaling blockade is abolished and IL-10 production by monocytes decreases, while the production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-?), increases. The regulation of IL-10 by Tregs appears to be mediated primarily by contact or paracrine-dependent mechanisms which involve IL-27. This work describes a novel mechanism by which regulatory T cells control IL-10 production and contribute to dysfunctional HIV-1-specific CD4 T cell help in chronic HIV-1 infection and provides a unique mechanistic insight into the role of regulatory T cells in immune exhaustion.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are potent immune modulators, but their role in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) pathogenesis remains poorly understood. We performed a detailed analysis of the frequency and function of Tregs in a large cohort of HIV-1-infected individuals and HIV-1 negative controls. While HIV "elite controllers" and uninfected individuals had similar Treg numbers and frequencies, the absolute numbers of Tregs declined in blood and gut-associated lymphoid tissue in patients with chronic progressive HIV-1 infection. Despite quantitative changes in Tregs, HIV-1 infection was not associated with an impairment of ex vivo suppressive function of flow-sorted Tregs in both HIV controllers and untreated chronic progressors.
Deep sequencing technologies have the potential to transform the study of highly variable viral pathogens by providing a rapid and cost-effective approach to sensitively characterize rapidly evolving viral quasispecies. Here, we report on a high-throughput whole HIV-1 genome deep sequencing platform that combines 454 pyrosequencing with novel assembly and variant detection algorithms. In one subject we combined these genetic data with detailed immunological analyses to comprehensively evaluate viral evolution and immune escape during the acute phase of HIV-1 infection. The majority of early, low frequency mutations represented viral adaptation to host CD8+ T cell responses, evidence of strong immune selection pressure occurring during the early decline from peak viremia. CD8+ T cell responses capable of recognizing these low frequency escape variants coincided with the selection and evolution of more effective secondary HLA-anchor escape mutations. Frequent, and in some cases rapid, reversion of transmitted mutations was also observed across the viral genome. When located within restricted CD8 epitopes these low frequency reverting mutations were sufficient to prime de novo responses to these epitopes, again illustrating the capacity of the immune response to recognize and respond to low frequency variants. More importantly, rapid viral escape from the most immunodominant CD8+ T cell responses coincided with plateauing of the initial viral load decline in this subject, suggestive of a potential link between maintenance of effective, dominant CD8 responses and the degree of early viremia reduction. We conclude that the early control of HIV-1 replication by immunodominant CD8+ T cell responses may be substantially influenced by rapid, low frequency viral adaptations not detected by conventional sequencing approaches, which warrants further investigation. These data support the critical need for vaccine-induced CD8+ T cell responses to target more highly constrained regions of the virus in order to ensure the maintenance of immunodominant CD8 responses and the sustained decline of early viremia.
Early immunological events during acute HIV infection are thought to fundamentally influence long-term disease outcome. Whereas the contribution of HIV-specific CD8 T cell responses to early viral control is well established, the role of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses in the control of viral replication after acute infection is unknown. A growing body of evidence suggests that CD4 T cells-besides their helper function-have the capacity to directly recognize and kill virally infected cells. In a longitudinal study of a cohort of individuals acutely infected with HIV, we observed that subjects able to spontaneously control HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy showed a significant expansion of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses-but not CD8 T cell responses-compared to subjects who progressed to a high viral set point (P = 0.038). Markedly, this expansion occurred before differences in viral load or CD4 T cell count and was characterized by robust cytolytic activity and expression of a distinct profile of perforin and granzymes at the earliest time point. Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed that the emergence of granzyme A(+) HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses at baseline was highly predictive of slower disease progression and clinical outcome (average days to CD4 T cell count <350/?l was 575 versus 306, P = 0.001). These data demonstrate that HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses can be used during the earliest phase of HIV infection as an immunological predictor of subsequent viral set point and disease outcome. Moreover, these data suggest that expansion of granzyme A(+) HIV-specific cytolytic CD4 T cell responses early during acute HIV infection contributes substantially to the control of viral replication.
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