Some HIV infected individuals remain asymptomatic for protracted periods of time in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Virological control, CD4 T cell loss and HIV-specific responses are some of the key interrelated determinants of HIV-1 disease progression. In this study, possible interactions between viral load, CD4 T cell slopes, host genetics and HIV-specific IFN-γ responses were evaluated in chronically HIV-1-infected adults.
Multilevel regression modeling was used to stratify clade A or D HIV-infected individuals into disease progression groups based on CD4 T cell slopes. ELISpot assays were used to quantify the frequency and magnitude of HIV-induced IFN-γ responses in 7 defined rapid progressors (RPs) and 14 defined slow progressors (SPs) at a single time point. HLA typing was performed using reference strand conformational analysis (RSCA). Although neither the breadth nor the magnitude of the proteome-wide HIV-specific IFN-γ response correlated with viral load, slow disease progression was associated with over-representation of host immunogenetic protective HLA B* alleles (10 of 14 SPs compared to 0 of 7; p = 0.004, Fisher's Exact) especially B*57 and B*5801, multiclade Gag T-cell targeting (71%, 10 of 14 SPs compared to 14%, 1 of 7 RPs); p = 0.029, Fisher's Exact test and evident virological control (3.65 compared to 5.46 log10 copies/mL in SPs and RPs respectively); p<0.001, unpaired student's t-test
These data are consistent with others that associated protection from HIV disease with inherent host HLA B allele-mediated ability to induce broader Gag T-cell targeting coupled with apparent virological control. These immunogenetic features of Gag-specific immune response which could influence disease progression may provide useful insight in future HIV vaccine design.
Immune responses to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are detected at all stages of infection and are believed to be responsible for controlling viremia. This study seeks to determine whether gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-secreting HIV-specific T-cell responses influence disease progression as defined by the rate of CD4 decline. The study population consisted of 31 subjects naïve to antiretroviral therapy. All were monitored clinically for a median of 24 months after the time they were tested for HIV-specific responses. The rate of CD4+-T-cell loss was calculated for all participants from monthly CD4 counts. Within this population, 17 subjects were classified as typical progressors, 6 subjects were classified as fast progressors, and 8 subjects were classified as slow progressors. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were screened for HIV-specific IFN-γ responses to all expressed HIV genes. Among the detected immune responses, 48% of the recognized peptides were encoded by Gag and 19% were encoded by Nef gene products. Neither the breadth nor the magnitude of HIV-specific responses correlated with the viral load or rate of CD4 decline. The breadth and magnitude of HIV-specific responses did not differ significantly among typical, fast, and slow progressors. These results support the conclusion that although diverse HIV-specific IFN-γ-secreting responses are mounted during the asymptomatic phase, these responses do not seem to modulate disease progression rates.
The generation of polyfunctional CD8+ T cells, in response to vaccination or natural infection, has been associated with improved protective immunity. However, it is unclear whether the maintenance of polyfunctionality is related to particular cellular phenotypic characteristics. To determine whether the cytokine expression profile is linked to the memory differentiation stage, we analyzed the degree of polyfunctionality of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells within different memory subpopulations in 20 ART-naïve HIV-1 infected individuals at approximately 34 weeks post infection. These profiles were compared with CMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in HIV-uninfected controls and in individuals chronically infected with HIV. Our results showed that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells differed according to their memory phenotype. Early-differentiated cells (CD45RO+CD27+) exhibited a higher proportion of cells positive for three or four functions (p<0.001), and a lower proportion of mono-functional cells (p<0.001) compared to terminally-differentiated (CD45RO−CD27−) HIV-specific CD8+ T cells. The majority of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were mono-functional (median 69% [IQR: 57–83]), producing predominantly CD107a or MIP1β. Moreover, proportions of HIV-specific mono-functional CD8+ T cells positively associated with proportions of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells (p=0.019, r=0.54). In contrast, CMV-specific CD8+ T cell polyfunctional capacities were similar across all memory subpopulations, with terminally- and early-differentiated cells endowed with comparable polyfunctionality. Overall, these data show that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are influenced by the stage of memory differentiation, which is not the case for CMV-specific responses.
Immune changes occurring after primary HIV infection (PHI) have a pivotal relevance. Our objective was to characterize the polyfunctionality of immune response triggered by PHI, and to characterize immune activation and regulatory T cells, correlating such features to disease progression.
Patients and Methods
We followed 11 patients experiencing PHI for 4 years. By polychromatic flow cytometry, we studied every month, for the first 6 months, T lymphocyte polyfunctionality after cell stimulation with peptides derived from HIV-1 gag and nef. Tregs were identified by flow cytometry, and T cell activation studied by CD38 and HLA-DR expression.
An increase of anti-gag and anti-nef CD8+ specific T cells was observed 3 months after PHI; however, truly polyfunctional T cells, also able to produce IL-2, were never found. No gross changes in Tregs were present. T lymphocyte activation was maximal 1 and 2 months after PHI, and significantly decreased in the following period. The level of activation two months after PHI was strictly correlated to the plasma viral load 1 year after infection, and significantly influenced the length of period without therapy. Indeed, 80% of patients with less than the median value of activated CD8+ (15.5%) or CD4+ (0.9%) T cells remained free of therapy for >46 months, while all patients over the median value had to start treatment within 26 months.
T cell activation after PHI, more than T cell polyfunctionality or Tregs, is a predictive marker for the control of viral load and for the time required to start treatment.
Variability to HIV infection, its progression as well as responsiveness to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is observed among individuals including viraemia controllers or exposed uninfected, rapid versus slow progressors and ART responders compared to non responders. This differential responsiveness/vulnerability to HIV-1 is governed by multiple host genetic factors that include HLA, cytokines, chemokines, their receptors and others. This review highlights the influence of these genetic factors on HIV/AIDS outcome; however, in India, the information in this area is very limited and most of these genetic studies have been conducted in Caucasian and South African populations. Considering, the population specific differences in the frequencies of protective or susceptibility favouring alleles and their influence on the disease outcome, it is of utmost importance to strengthen ongoing efforts towards defining largely unknown genetic propensity in Indian population, particularly by recruitment of large cohorts of well categorized exposed uninfected individuals, rapid, long term non progressors and elite viraemic controllers. Multi-parametric analysis of these potentially interactive immunogenetic variables in these cohorts may help to define potential targets for diagnostics and therapy in a population specific manner.
Chemokines; cytokines; clades; exposed uninfected individuals; genetic correlates; genetic variants; HIV; HIV/AIDS; HLA; immunopathogenesis; rapid & slow progressors; viraemia controllers
T cell activation levels, viral load and CD4+ T cell counts at early stages of HIV-1 infection are predictive of the rate of progression towards AIDS. We evaluated whether the inflammatory profile during primary HIV-1 infection is predictive of the virological and immunological set-points and of disease progression. We quantified 28 plasma proteins during acute and post-acute HIV-1 infection in individuals with known disease progression profiles. Forty-six untreated patients, enrolled during primary HIV-1 infection, were categorized into rapid progressors, progressors and slow progressors according to their spontaneous progression profile over 42 months of follow-up. Already during primary infection, rapid progressors showed a higher number of increased plasma proteins than progressors or slow progressors. The plasma levels of TGF-β1 and IL-18 in primary HIV-1 infection were both positively associated with T cell activation level at set-point (6 months after acute infection) and together able to predict 74% of the T cell activation variation at set-point. Plasma IP-10 was positively and negatively associated with, respectively, T cell activation and CD4+ T cell counts at set-point and capable to predict 30% of the CD4+ T cell count variation at set-point. Moreover, plasma IP-10 levels during primary infection were predictive of rapid progression. In primary infection, IP-10 was an even better predictor of rapid disease progression than viremia or CD4+ T cell levels at this time point. The superior predictive capacity of IP-10 was confirmed in an independent group of 88 HIV-1 infected individuals. Altogether, this study shows that the inflammatory profile in primary HIV-1 infection is associated with T cell activation levels and CD4+ T cell counts at set-point. Plasma IP-10 levels were of strong predictive value for rapid disease progression. The data suggest IP-10 being an earlier marker of disease progression than CD4+ T cell counts or viremia levels.
Although HLA-B*57 (B57) is associated with slow progression to disease following HIV-1 infection, B57 heterozygotes display a wide spectrum of outcomes, including rapid progression, viremic slow progression, and elite control. Efforts to identify differences between B57-positive (B57+) slow progressors and B57+ rapid progressors have largely focused on cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) phenotypes and specificities during chronic stages of infection. Although CTL responses in the early months of infection are likely to be the most important for the long-term rate of HIV-1 disease progression, few data on the early CTL responses of eventual slow progressors have been available. Utilizing the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), we retrospectively examined the early HIV-1-specific CTL responses of 14 B57+ individuals whose time to development of disease ranged from 3.5 years to longer than 25 years after infection. In general, a greater breadth of targeting of epitopes from structural proteins, especially Gag, as well as of highly conserved epitopes from any HIV-1 protein, correlated with longer times until disease. The single elite controller in the cohort was an outlier on several correlations of CTL targeting and time until disease, consistent with reports that elite control is typically not achieved solely by protective HLA-mediated CTLs. When targeting of individual epitopes was analyzed, we found that early CTL responses to the IW9 (ISPRTLNAW) epitope of Gag, while generally subdominant, correlated with delayed progression to disease. This is the first study to identify early CTL responses to IW9 as a correlate of protection in persons with HLA-B*57.
HIV-1 vertically infected children in the USA are living into adolescence and beyond with the widespread use of antiretroviral drugs. These patients exhibit striking differences in the rate of HIV-1 disease progression which could provide insights into mechanisms of control. We hypothesized that differences in the pattern of immunodomination including breadth, magnitude and polyfunctionality of HIV-1 specific CD8+ T cell response could partially explain differences in progression rate.
In this study, we mapped, quantified, and assessed the functionality of these responses against individual HIV-1 Gag peptides in 58 HIV-1 vertically infected adolescents. Subjects were divided into two groups depending upon the rate of disease progression: adolescents with a sustained CD4%≥25 were categorized as having no immune suppression (NS), and those with CD4%≤15 categorized as having severe immune suppression (SS). We observed differences in the area of HIV-1-Gag to which the two groups made responses. In addition, subjects who expressed the HLA- B*57 or B*42 alleles were highly likely to restrict their immunodominant response through these alleles. There was a significantly higher frequency of naïve CD8+ T cells in the NS subjects (p = 0.0066) compared to the SS subjects. In contrast, there were no statistically significant differences in any other CD8+ T cell subsets. The differentiation profiles and multifunctionality of Gag-specific CD8+ T cells, regardless of immunodominance, also failed to demonstrate meaningful differences between the two groups.
Together, these data suggest that, at least in vertically infected adolescents, the region of HIV-1-Gag targeted by CD8+ T cells and the magnitude of that response relative to other responses may have more importance on the rate of disease progression than their qualitative effector functions.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected infants in the developing world typically progress to AIDS or death within the first 2 years of life. However, a minority progress relatively slowly. This study addresses the potential contribution of viral factors to HIV disease progression in eight infants selected from a well-characterized cohort of C clade HIV-infected infants, monitored prospectively from birth in Durban, South Africa. Three infants were defined as “progressors,” and five were defined as “slow progressors.” We observed that slow-progressor infants carry HIV isolates with significantly lower replicative capacity compared to virus from progressors. Furthermore, our data suggest a link between the attenuated viral phenotype and HLA-B* 57/5801 epitope-specific Gag mutational patterns of the transmitted virus and not to coreceptor usage or to the presence of Nef deletions or insertions. These data underline the importance of virus-host interactions and highlight the contribution of viral attenuation through Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell escape mutations, among other factors, in the control of pediatric HIV infection.
High levels of HIV-1 replication during the chronic phase of infection usually correlate with rapid progression to severe immunodeficiency. However, a minority of highly viremic individuals remains asymptomatic and maintains high CD4+ T cell counts. This tolerant profile is poorly understood and reminiscent of the widely studied nonprogressive disease model of SIV infection in natural hosts. Here, we identify transcriptome differences between rapid progressors (RPs) and viremic nonprogressors (VNPs) and highlight several genes relevant for the understanding of HIV-1–induced immunosuppression. RPs were characterized by a specific transcriptome profile of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells similar to that observed in pathogenic SIV-infected rhesus macaques. In contrast, VNPs exhibited lower expression of interferon-stimulated genes and shared a common gene regulation profile with nonpathogenic SIV-infected sooty mangabeys. A short list of genes associated with VNP, including CASP1, CD38, LAG3, TNFSF13B, SOCS1, and EEF1D, showed significant correlation with time to disease progression when evaluated in an independent set of CD4+ T cell expression data. This work characterizes 2 minimally studied clinical patterns of progression to AIDS, whose analysis may inform our understanding of HIV pathogenesis.
The causal mechanisms of differential disease progression in HIV-1 infected children remain poorly defined, and much of the accumulated knowledge comes from studies of subtype B infected individuals. The applicability of such findings to other subtypes, such as subtype C, remains to be substantiated. In this study, we longitudinally characterized the evolution of the Env V1–V5 region from seven subtype C HIV-1 perinatally infected children with different clinical outcomes. We investigated the possible influence of viral genotype and humoral immune response on disease progression in infants.
Genetic analyses revealed that rapid progressors (infants that died in the first year of life) received and maintained a genetically homogeneous viral population throughout the disease course. In contrast, slow progressors (infants that remained clinically asymptomatic for up to four years) also exhibited low levels variation initially, but attained higher levels of diversity over time. Genetic assessment of variation, as indicated by dN/dS, showed that particular regions of Env undergo selective changes. Nevertheless, the magnitude and distribution of these changes did not segregate slow and rapid progressors. Longitudinal trends in Env V1–V5 length and the number of potential N-glycosylation sites varied among patients but also failed to discriminate between fast and slow progressors. Viral isolates from rapid progressors and slow progressors displayed no significant growth properties differences in vitro. The neutralizing activity in maternal and infant baseline plasma also varied in its effectiveness against the initial virus from the infants but did not differentiate rapid from slow progressors. Quantification of the neutralization susceptibility of the initial infant viral isolates to maternal baseline plasma indicated that both sensitive and resistant viruses were transmitted, irrespective of disease course. We showed that humoral immunity, whether passively acquired or developed de novo in the infected children, varied but was not predictive of disease progression.
Our data suggest that neither genetic variation in env, or initial maternal neutralizing activity, or the level of passively acquired neutralizing antibody, or the level of the de novo neutralization response appear to be linked to differences in disease progression in subtype C HIV-1 infected children.
Rapid progression to AIDS is a significant problem, especially in developing countries, where the majority of HIV-infected individuals reside. As rapid disease progression is also frequently observed in SIV-infected macaques, they represent a valuable tool to investigate the pathogenesis of this condition in humans. Here, we have shown that pathogenic SIV infection in rhesus macaques resulted in a rapid depletion (as early as week 2) of activated memory B (CD21–CD27+; mBAct) cells that was strongly associated with rapid disease progression. This depletion was progressive and sustained in rapid progressors, but less severe and transient in typical progressors. Because of the rapid and sustained depletion of mBAct cells, rapid progressors failed to develop SIV-specific Ab responses, showed a decline in non–SIV-specific Ab titers, and succumbed faster to intestinal bacterial infections. Depletion of mBAct cells was strongly associated with preferential depletion of mBAct cells expressing programmed death-1 (PD-1), and in vitro blockade of PD-1 improved their survival. Furthermore, in vivo PD-1 blockade in SIV-infected macaques enhanced Ab responses to non-SIV as well as SIV Ags. Our results identify depletion of mBAct cells as a very early predictor of rapid disease progression in pathogenic SIV infection and suggest an important role for the PD-1 pathway in depletion of mBAct cells and impaired humoral immune responses in SIV-infected macaques.
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) nef gene is a crucial determinant in AIDS disease progression. Although several in vitro activities have been attributed to the Nef protein, identifying the one critical for in vivo pathogenicity remains elusive. In this study, we examined a large number of nef alleles derived at various time points from 13 perinatally infected children showing different progression rates: six nonprogressors (NPs), three slow progressors (SPs), and four rapid progressors (RPs). The patient-derived nef alleles were analyzed for their steady-state expression of a Nef protein, for their relative ability to downregulate cell surface expression of CD4 and major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) and for their capacity to bind the clathrin adaptor AP-1 complex. We found that NP-derived nef alleles, compared to nef alleles isolated from SPs and RPs, had reduced CD4 and MHC-I downregulation activities. In contrast, SP- and RP-derived nef alleles did not differ and efficiently downregulated both CD4 and MHC-I. AP-1 binding was a conserved function of primary nef alleles not correlated with clinical progression. Defective Nef proteins from NPs, rather than sharing common specific changes in their sequences, accumulated various amino acid substitutions, mainly located outside the conserved domains previously associated with Nef biological properties. Our data indicate that Nef-mediated downregulation of cell surface CD4 and MHC-I significantly contributes to the expression of the pathogenic potential of HIV-1.
In human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adults, cytokine production profiles switch from predominantly type 1 (interleukin-2 [IL-2] and gamma interferon [IFN-gamma]) to type 2 (IL-4 and IL-10) cytokines with disease progression. To test this hypothesis in vertically HIV-infected children, we measured cytokine transcription and production in rapid progressors (RPs), seroreverters (SRs), and those children exposed to HIV in utero (P0s). Production of type 1 and type 2 cytokines was measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures of 8 SR, 25 P0, and 11 RP children. Unstimulated cultures, irrespective of infection and stage of disease, produced similar levels of IL-2, IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-10. Upon stimulation with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) plus phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA), RP children produced less IL-2 (P < 0.01) and IFN-gamma (P < 0.02) than SR children and also expressed significantly less IFN-gamma mRNA (P < 0.01) than SR children. RP children expressed significantly higher levels of IL-4 mRNA than P0 children (P < 0.03). There were no differences in the production of IL-10 by PHA-PMA-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures among the three groups of children. Our data with these pediatric patients suggest that a deficiency in mitogen-stimulated type 1 cytokine production and excess type 2 cytokine (IL-4) transcription correlate with disease progression. Additional studies with larger sample sizes are needed to test further the hypothesis of the type 1-to-type 2 cytokine switch in children infected with HIV.
Carriage of the natural killer (NK) receptor genotype KIR3DL1*h/*y with its HLA-B*57 ligand (*h/*y+B*57) is associated with slow time to AIDS and low viral load (VL). To provide a functional basis for these epidemiological observations, we assessed whether HIV-1-infected slow progressors (SP) carrying the *h/*y+B*57 compound genotype would have increased NK cell polyfunctional potential in comparison to SP with other killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR)/HLA compound genotypes and whether this enhanced polyfunctionality was dependent upon the coexpression of both KIR3DL1*h/*y and HLA-B*57. The functional potential of NK cells was investigated by stimulating peripheral blood mononuclear cells with HLA-devoid targets or single HLA transfectants. Multiparametric flow cytometry was used to detect NK cells with seven functional profiles representing all permutations of CD107a expression and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) secretion. NK cells from individuals carrying KIR3DL1 receptor–HLA-Bw4 ligand pairs had greater trifunctional responses than those from KIR3DL1 homozygotes (hmz), who were Bw6 homozygotes. NK cells from subjects carrying the *h/*y+B*57 genotypes exhibited the highest trifunctional potential, and this was dependent on cocarriage of the NK receptor and its ligand. Trifunctional cells secreted more of each function tested on a per-cell basis than each corresponding monofunctional NK subset. Although VL influenced NK functionality, individuals with defined KIR/HLA genotypes exhibited differences in NK cell polyfunctionality that could not be accounted for by VL alone. The protective effect of HLA-B*57 on slow progression to AIDS and low VL may be mediated through its interaction with KIR3DL1 alleles to educate NK cells for potent activity upon stimulation.
HLA-B*5701 is the host factor most strongly associated with slow HIV-1 disease progression, although rates can vary within this group. Underlying mechanisms are not fully understood but likely involve both immunological and virological dynamics. The present study investigated HIV-1 in vivo evolution and epitope-specific CD8+ T cell responses in six HLA-B*5701 patients who had not received antiretroviral treatment, monitored from early infection for up to 7 years. The subjects were classified as high-risk progressors (HRPs) or low-risk progressors (LRPs) based on baseline CD4+ T cell counts. Dynamics of HIV-1 Gag p24 evolution and multifunctional CD8+ T cell responses were evaluated by high-resolution phylogenetic analysis and polychromatic flow cytometry, respectively. In all subjects, substitutions occurred more frequently in flanking regions than in HLA-B*5701-restricted epitopes. In LRPs, p24 sequence diversity was significantly lower; sequences exhibited a higher degree of homoplasy and more constrained mutational patterns than HRPs. The HIV-1 intrahost evolutionary rate was also lower in LRPs and followed a strict molecular clock, suggesting neutral genetic drift rather than positive selection. Additionally, polyfunctional CD8+ T cell responses, particularly to TW10 and QW9 epitopes, were more robust in LRPs, who also showed significantly higher interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in early infection. Overall, the findings indicate that HLA-B*5701 patients with higher CD4 counts at baseline have a lower risk of HIV-1 disease progression because of the interplay between specific HLA-linked immune responses and the rate and mode of viral evolution. The study highlights the power of a multidisciplinary approach, integrating high-resolution evolutionary and immunological data, to understand mechanisms underlying HIV-1 pathogenesis.
The pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus-associated motor and cognitive disorders is poorly understood. In this context both a protective and a harmful role of the immune system has been discussed. This question was addressed in the present study by correlating the occurrence of neurologic disease in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected macaques with disease progression and the humoral and cellular intrathecal antiviral immune response. Overt neurologic signs consisting of ataxia and apathy were observed at a much higher frequency in rapid progressor animals (6 of 12) than in slow progressors (1 of 7). Whereas slow progressors mounted a strong antiviral antibody (Ab) response as evidenced by enzyme-linked immunosorbent and immunospot assays, neither virus-specific Ab titers nor Ab-secreting cells could be found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or brain parenchyma of rapid progressors. Similarly, increased infiltration of CD8+ T cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes specific for viral antigens were detected only in the CSF of slow progressors. The finding that neurologic signs develop frequently in SIV-infected macaques in the absence of an antiviral immune response demonstrates that the immune system does not contribute to the development of motor disorders in these animals. Moreover, the lower incidence of neurologic symptoms in slow progressors with a strong intrathecal immune response suggests a protective role of the virus-specific immunity in immunodeficiency virus-induced central nervous system disease.
Interleukin-15 (IL-15) enhances the effector mechanisms of anti-HIV immune responses and thus is considered a potential adjuvant of HIV-1 vaccine. However, there are a lack of data concerning the relationships between IL-15 expression and regulation in HIV-1-infected patients and the course of disease progression. We found that IL-15, but not IL-15Rα, is expressed at significantly higher levels in the CD14+ monocytes [stimulated or not with interferon (IFN)-γ] of long-term nonprogressors (LTNP) than in those of HIV-1 progressors or healthy controls. There was no between-group difference in the amounts of soluble IL-15 released from the cells. We also found that like the healthy controls, the LTNP expressed the IL-15 and IL-15Rα genes in a more coordinated manner than the progressors. Our findings show that there are significant differences in IL-15 expression between patients with different courses of HIV infection, and that the coordinated expression of the IL-15 and IL-15Rα genes is dysregulated in patients with progressive disease. They also provide important information concerning the mechanisms of infection and the potential use of IL-15 as a therapeutic agent.
Increasing evidence has accumulated showing the role of APOBEC3G (A3G) and 3F (A3F) in the control of HIV-1 replication and disease progression in humans. However, very few studies have been conducted in HIV-infected children. Here, we analyzed the levels of A3G and A3F expression and induced G-to-A hypermutation in a group of children with distinct profiles of disease progression.
Perinatally HIV-infected children were classified as progressors or long-term non-progressors according to criteria based on HIV viral load and CD4 T-cell counts over time. A group of uninfected control children were also enrolled in the study. PBMC proviral DNA was assessed for G-to-A hypermutation, whereas A3G and A3F mRNA were isolated and quantified through TaqMan® real-time PCR. No correlation was observed between disease progression and A3G/A3F expression or hypermutation levels. Although all children analyzed showed higher expression levels of A3G compared to A3F (an average fold of 5 times), a surprisingly high A3F-related hypermutation rate was evidenced in the cohort, irrespective of the child's disease progression profile.
Our results contribute to the current controversy as to whether HIV disease progression is related to A3G/A3F enzymatic activity. To our knowledge, this is the first study analyzing A3G/F expression in HIV-infected children, and it may pave the way to a better understanding of the host factors governing HIV disease in the pediatric setting.
Elite non-progressors (plasma viral load <50 copies/ml while antiretroviral naive) constitute a tiny fraction of HIV-infected individuals. After 12 years follow-up of a cohort of 13 long-term non-progressors (LTNP) identified from 135 individuals with transfusion-acquired HIV infection, 5 remained LTNP after 23 to 26 years infection, but only 3 retained elite LTNP status. We examined the mechanisms that differentiated delayed progressors from LTNP in this cohort.
A survival advantage was conferred on 12 of 13 subjects, who had at least one host genetic factor (HLA, chemokine receptor or TLR polymorphisms) or viral attenuating factor (defective nef) associated with slow progression. However, antiviral immune responses differentiated the course of disease into and beyond the second decade of infection. A stable p24-specific proliferative response was associated with control of viraemia and retention of non-progressor status, but this p24 response was absent or declined in viraemic subjects. Strong Gag-dominant cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses were identified in most LTNP, or Pol dominant-CTL in those with nef-defective HIV infection. CTL were associated with control of viraemia when combined with p24 proliferative responses. However, CTL did not prevent late disease progression. Individuals with sustained viral suppression had CTL recognising numerous Gag epitopes, while strong but restricted responses to one or two immunodominant epitopes was effective for some time, but failed to contain viraemia over the course of this study. Viral escape mutants at a HLA B27-restricted Gag-p24 epitope were detected in only 1 of 3 individuals, whereas declining or negative p24 proliferative responses occurred in all 3 concurrent with an increase in viraemia.
Detectable viraemia at study entry was predictive of loss of LTNP status and/or disease progression in 6 of 8, and differentiated slow progressors from elite LTNP who retained potent virological control. Sustained immunological suppression of viraemia was independently associated with preserved p24 proliferative responses, regardless of the strength and breadth of the CTL response. A decline in this protective p24 response preceded or correlated with loss of non-progressor status and/or signs of disease progression.
The presence of interleukin-2 (IL-2)-producing human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-specific CD4+ T-cell responses has been associated with the immunological control of HIV-1 replication; however, the causal relationship between these factors remains unclear. Here we show that IL-2-producing HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cells can be cloned from acutely HIV-1-infected individuals. Despite the early presence of these cells, each of the individuals in the present study exhibited progressive disease, with one individual showing rapid progression. In this rapid progressor, three IL-2-producing HIV-1 Gag-specific CD4+ T-cell responses were identified and mapped to the following optimal epitopes: HIVWASRELER, REPRGSDIAGT, and FRDYVDRFYKT. Responses to these epitopes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells were monitored longitudinally to >1 year postinfection, and contemporaneous circulating plasma viruses were sequenced. A variant of the FRDYVDRFYKT epitope sequence, FRDYVDQFYKT, was observed in 1/21 plasma viruses sequenced at 5 months postinfection and 1/10 viruses at 7 months postinfection. This variant failed to stimulate the corresponding CD4+ T-cell clone and thus constitutes an escape mutant. Responses to each of the three Gag epitopes were rapidly lost, and this loss was accompanied by a loss of antigen-specific cells in the periphery as measured by using an FRDYVDRFYKT-presenting major histocompatibility complex class II tetramer. Highly active antiretroviral therapy was associated with the reemergence of FRDYVDRFYKT-specific cells by tetramer. Thus, our data support that IL-2-producing HIV-1-specific CD4+ T-cell responses can exert immune pressure during early HIV-1 infection but that the inability of these responses to enforce enduring control of viral replication is related to the deletion and/or dysfunction of HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cells rather than to the fixation of escape mutations at high frequencies.
We examined the relationship between env sequence variation and disease progression in 10 human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-seropositive subjects selected from a longitudinal cohort receiving zidovudine therapy. Five subjects were chosen for stable clinical status and CD4 counts (slow progressors), and five were selected for rapid clinical deterioration and CD4 count decline (rapid progressors). The slow progressors had significantly lower plasma viral RNA loads and greater lymphoproliferative responses to mitogens than the rapid progressors. DNA sequences representing the C1 through C3 regions of env were amplified from two peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA samples from each subject separated by an average of 2.5 years. Molecular clones of these amplicons were then sequenced, and DNA sequence and deduced amino acid sequence distances were compared. Inter-time point sequence comparison showed a higher rate of sequence evolution for the rapid progressors in three of five matched pairs of rapid progressors and slow progressors and for the slow progressors in the remaining two subject pairs. However, intra-time point sequence comparisons showed that four of five slow progressors developed a more diverse quasispecies over time and one showed no change. In contrast, four of five rapid progressors showed no change in quasispecies diversity over time and one showed a significant decrease in diversity. The overall C1 through C3 region quasispecies diversity in the slow progressors at baseline was lower than that for the rapid progressors, but this difference was not significant at the follow-up time points. These diversity relationships were obscured if sequence analyses were limited to the 300-bp C2 to V3 region. Thus, HIV-1 quasispecies diversity increased over time in subjects with more functional immune systems.
HIV-1-infected long-term nonprogressors are a heterogeneous group of individuals with regard to immunologic and virologic markers of HIV-1 disease. CC chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) has recently been identified as an important coreceptor for HIV-1 entry into CD4+ T cells. A mutant allele of CCR5 confers a high degree of resistance to HIV-1 infection in homozygous individuals and partial protection against HIV disease progression in heterozygotes. The frequency of CCR5 heterozygotes is increased among HIV-1- infected long-term nonprogressors compared with progressors; however, the host defense mechanisms responsible for nonprogression in CCR5 heterozygotes are unknown. We hypothesized that nonprogressors who were heterozygous for the mutant CCR5 gene might define a subgroup of nonprogressors with higher CD4+ T cell counts and lower viral load compared with CCR5 wild-type nonprogressors. However, in a cohort of 33 HIV-1-infected long-term nonprogressors, those who were heterozygous for the mutant CCR5 gene were indistinguishable from CCR5 wild-type nonprogressors with regard to all measured immunologic and virologic parameters. Although epidemiologic data support a role for the mutant CCR5 allele in the determination of the state of long-term nonprogression in some HIV-1- infected individuals, it is not the only determinant. Furthermore, long-term nonprogressors with the wild-type CCR5 genotype are indistinguishable from heterozygotes from an immunologic and virologic standpoint.
Dendritic cell (DC) therapy is a promising technology for the treatment of HIV infected individuals. HIV-1 Gag- and Nef RNA-loaded DC have previously been shown to induce immune responses ex vivo following coculture with autologous lymphocytes. However, polyfunctionality and memory responses following coculture have not been evaluated. In addition, little is known regarding whether specific HIV-1 proteome components, such as highly conserved regions of the HIV-1, could enhance clinical responses following DC therapy.
Methodology and Principal Findings
To determine the breadth of the immune responses to antigen loaded DC, we analyzed polyfunctional T cell response ex vivo to Gag RNA loaded DC. Blood samples were used to generate monocyte derived DC, which were then matured and cocultured with autologous lymphocytes. We found that cytokine-matured DC loaded with Gag RNA were able to induce Gag-specific IFN-γ and IL-2 responses after a 12-day coculture. We characterized these responses by polyfunctional intracellular cytokine staining and evaluation of T cell memory phenotypes. Central memory CD8+ T cells were induced ex vivo after DC coculture from each of 3 patients, and the effector memory pool was increased by DC coculture from 2 patients. We also observed a decrease in the terminal effector and intermediate CD8+ T cell pool and an increase in the naïve/other population. There was a reduction in terminal effector and intermediate CD4+ T cells, and a corresponding increase in naïve/other CD4+ T cells. Finally, we evaluated conserved regions of Gag as a novel DC therapy immunogen and found that a Conserved Element (CE) p24 Gag antigen elicited IFN-γ and IL-2 responses comparable to those induced by a full-length Gag antigen.
We showed that RNA-loaded DC therapy induced a polyfunctional T cell response ex vivo, supporting the use of such DC-therapy for HIV infection. However, the central and effector memory phenotypes of T cells did not appear to be enhanced during coculture with Gag RNA-loaded DC. Furthermore, comparable antigen-specific responses were induced in HIV infected individuals using full-length Gag or only conserved elements of the Gag p24 protein. This indicates that immune responses can be focused onto the conserved elements of Gag in the absence of other Gag components.
Dendritic Cell; Therapeutic Vaccination; HIV; RNA
Average mutual information (AMI) has been used in a number of applications in bioinformatics. In this paper we present its use to study genetic changes in populations; in particular populations of HIV viruses. Disease progression of HIV-1 infection in infants can be rapid resulting in death within the the first year, or slow, allowing the infant to survive beyond the first year. We study the development of rapid and slow progressing HIV population using AMI charts based on average mutual information among amino acids in the env gene from a population of 1142 clones derived from seven infants with slow progressing HIV-1 infection and four infants with rapidly progressing HIV-1 infection. The AMI charts indicate the relative homogeneity of the rapid progressor populations and the much greater heterogeneity of the slow progressor population, especially in later samples. The charts also show the distinct regions of covariation between residues without the need for aligning the sequences. By examining the changes in AMI between populations we can distinguish between clones obtained from rapid progressor and slow progressor. A measure of this change can be used to enhance prediction of disease progression.