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1.  Human adenovirus-specific T cells modulate HIV-specific T cell responses to an Ad5-vectored HIV-1 vaccine 
Recombinant viruses hold promise as vectors for vaccines to prevent infectious diseases with significant global health impacts. One of their major limitations is that preexisting anti-vector neutralizing antibodies can reduce T cell responses to the insert antigens; however, the impact of vector-specific cellular immunity on subsequent insert-specific T cell responses has not been assessed in humans. Here, we have identified and compared adenovirus-specific and HIV-specific T cell responses in subjects participating in two HIV-1 vaccine trials using a vaccine vectored by adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5). Higher frequencies of pre-immunization adenovirus-specific CD4+ T cells were associated with substantially decreased magnitude of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses and decreased breadth of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in vaccine recipients, independent of type-specific preexisting Ad5-specific neutralizing antibody titers. Further, epitopes recognized by adenovirus-specific T cells were commonly conserved across many adenovirus serotypes, suggesting that cross-reactivity of preexisting adenovirus-specific T cells can extend to adenovirus vectors derived from rare serotypes. These findings provide what we believe to be a new understanding of how preexisting viral immunity may impact the efficacy of vaccines under current evaluation for prevention of HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
PMCID: PMC3248307  PMID: 22201684
2.  HIV-1 vaccine-induced immunity in the test-of-concept Step Study: a case-cohort analysis 
Lancet  2008;372(9653):1894-1905.
In the Step Study, the MRKAd5 HIV-1 gag/pol/nef vaccine did not lower post-infection plasma viremia, and HIV-1 incidence was higher in vaccine-treated than placebo-treated males with pre-existing adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) immunity. We evaluated vaccine-induced immunity and its potential contributions to infection risk.
To assess immunogenicity, HIV-specific T-cells were characterized ex vivo using validated IFN-γ ELISpot and intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) assays, employing a case-cohort design. To determine effects of vaccine and pre-existing Ad5 immunity on infection risk, flow cytometric studies measured Ad5-specific T-cells and circulating activated (Ki67+/Bcl- 2lo) CD4+ T-cells expressing CCR5.
IFN-γ-secreting HIV-specific T-cells (range, 163–686/106 PBMC) were detected ex vivo by ELISpot in 77% (258/354) of vaccinees; the majority recognized 2–3 HIV proteins. HIV- specific CD4+ T-cells were identified by ICS in 41%; ~85% expressed IL-2, and two-thirds of these co-expressed IFN-γ and/or TNF-α. HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells (range, 0.4–1.0%) were observed in 73%, expressing predominantly either IFN-γ alone or with TNF-α. No major differences were found in vaccine-induced HIV-specific immunity, including response rate, magnitude, and cytokine profile comparing vaccinated male cases (pre-infection) with non-cases. Interestingly, Ad5-specific T-cells were lower in cases than non-cases in several subgroup analyses. The percent circulating Ki67+Bcl-2lo/CCR5+ CD4+ T-cells did not differ between cases and non-cases.
Consistent with previous trials, the MrkAd5/HIV-1 gag/pol/nef vaccine was highly immunogenic for inducing HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells. Comparative analyses did not reveal differences in HIV-specific immunologic responses between cases and non-cases that explain the lack of vaccine efficacy and potential infection enhancement. If T-cell immunity is critical in vaccine-induced HIV protection, our findings suggest that future candidate vaccines must elicit responses that either exceed in magnitude or differ in breadth and/or function from those observed in this trial.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, U.S. National Institute of Health; Merck Research Laboratories
PMCID: PMC2774110  PMID: 19012957
3.  Impaired Viral Entry Cannot Explain Reduced CD4+ T Cell Susceptibility to HIV Type 1 in Certain Highly Exposed Individuals 
AIDS research and human retroviruses  2008;24(11):1415-1427.
Rare individuals report repeated unprotected HIV-1 sexual exposures, yet remain seronegative for years. We investigated the possibility that reduced in vitro CD4+ T cell susceptibility to HIV-1 infection protects such highly exposed seronegative (ES) individuals. Susceptibility to three R5-tropic HIV-1 isolates, regardless of inoculating dose, was remarkably similar between 81 ES and 33 low-risk controls. In 94% (99/105) of donors, we observed a 1.36 log-unit range in HIV-1JR-CSF production, with similar results for HIV-11192. The median frequency of intracellular Gag+ T cells after single-round infection was similar in ES (5.2%) and controls (7.2%), p = 0.456. However, in repeated testing, CD4+ T cells from two controls (6.1%) and four ES (4.9%) exhibited a 10- to 2500-fold reduction in HIV-1 production and required 5- to 12-fold greater HIV-11192 and HIV-1JR-CSF inocula to establish infection (TCID50). Reduced viral entry cannot explain the low producer phenotype; no differences in CCR5 receptor density or β-chemokine production were observed. In conclusion, we have identified a remarkably narrow range of HIV-1 susceptibility in seronegative donors regardless of risk activity, which can be applied as a benchmark to assess vaccine-induced antiviral effector activities. However, CD4+ T cells from a subset of individuals demonstrated reduced HIV-1 susceptibility unexplained by impaired entry, lending support to the possibility that cellular restriction of HIV-1 may account for continued seronegativity in some of those having repeated sexual exposure. Identifying the host–virus interactions responsible for diminished in vitro susceptibility may contribute to the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2764523  PMID: 19000021
4.  Impaired Viral Entry Cannot Explain Reduced CD4+ T Cell Susceptibility to HIV Type 1 in Certain Highly Exposed Individuals 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2008;24(11):1415-1427.
Rare individuals report repeated unprotected HIV-1 sexual exposures, yet remain seronegative for years. We investigated the possibility that reduced in vitro CD4+ T cell susceptibility to HIV-1 infection protects such highly exposed seronegative (ES) individuals. Susceptibility to three R5-tropic HIV-1 isolates, regardless of inoculating dose, was remarkably similar between 81 ES and 33 low-risk controls. In 94% (99/105) of donors, we observed a 1.36 log-unit range in HIV-1JR-CSF production, with similar results for HIV-11192. The median frequency of intracellular Gag+ T cells after single-round infection was similar in ES (5.2%) and controls (7.2%), p = 0.456. However, in repeated testing, CD4+ T cells from two controls (6.1%) and four ES (4.9%) exhibited a 10- to 2500-fold reduction in HIV-1 production and required 5- to 12-fold greater HIV-11192 and HIV-1JR-CSF inocula to establish infection (TCID50). Reduced viral entry cannot explain the low producer phenotype; no differences in CCR5 receptor density or β-chemokine production were observed. In conclusion, we have identified a remarkably narrow range of HIV-1 susceptibility in seronegative donors regardless of risk activity, which can be applied as a benchmark to assess vaccine-induced antiviral effector activities. However, CD4+ T cells from a subset of individuals demonstrated reduced HIV-1 susceptibility unexplained by impaired entry, lending support to the possibility that cellular restriction of HIV-1 may account for continued seronegativity in some of those having repeated sexual exposure. Identifying the host-virus interactions responsible for diminished in vitro susceptibility may contribute to the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC2764523  PMID: 19000021
5.  Setting the stage – HIV host invasion 
Nature reviews. Immunology  2008;8(6):447-457.
For more than two decades, HIV has infected millions of people worldwide each year through mucosal transmission. Our knowledge of how HIV secures a foothold at both the molecular and cellular levels has expanded by recent investigations that have applied new technologies and used improved techniques to isolate ex vivo human tissue and generate in vitro cellular models, as well as more relevant in vivo animal challenge systems. Here, we review the current concepts of the immediate events that follow viral exposure at genital mucosal sites where most documented transmissions occur. Furthermore, we discuss the gaps in our knowledge that are relevant to future studies, which will shape strategies for effective HIV prevention.
PMCID: PMC2587276  PMID: 18469831
6.  Defining Blood Processing Parameters for Optimal Detection of Cryopreserved Antigen-Specific Responses for HIV Vaccine Trials 
Journal of immunological methods  2007;322(1-2):57-69.
Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) ELISpot and intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) assays are routinely employed in clinical HIV vaccine trials to identify antigen-specific T cells in cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Several parameters involved in blood collection, processing and shipping may influence immunological function of the resulting cells, including anticoagulant type, time from venipuncture to PBMC isolation/cryopreservation, method of PBMC isolation and procedure for sample shipping. We examined these parameters in single and multiple site studies, and found the length of time from venipuncture to cryopreservation is the most important parameter affecting performance of T cells in immunological assays. Comparing blood processed at 24 hours after venipuncture with that processed within eight hours, we observed on average a modest reduction in PBMC viability (∼8% decrease), a greater loss in cell recovery (∼32%), and between 36-56% loss in IFN-γ T cell frequencies by ELISpot assay. We also describe three cold shipping methods that maintain immunological function in appropriately cryopreserved PBMC. These data indicate that cryopreservation of PBMC should occur within eight hours of venipuncture for optimal performance. This narrow window for specimen processing has important implications in selecting and monitoring clinical sites with laboratory capacity to perform these procedures in future clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC1904432  PMID: 17382342
7.  HIV-1 Induces Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes in the Cervix of Infected Women 
Although T lymphocytes are present in the genital mucosa, their function in sexually transmitted diseases is unproven. To determine if cervical T cells mediate HIV-specific cytolysis, mononuclear cells in cytobrush specimens from HIV-1-infected women were stimulated in vitro with antigen. Resultant cell lines lysed autologous targets expressing HIV-1 proteins in 12/19 (63%) subjects, and these responses were detected intermittently on repeated visits. All 8 subjects with blood CD4+ counts ⩾500 cells/μl had HIV-1-specific cervical CTL, whereas only 4/11 with counts <500 cells/μl had detectable responses (P = 0.008). Class II MHC– restricted CD4+ CTL clones lysed targets expressing Env gp41 or infected with HIV-1. Class I MHC-restricted CD8+ clones recognized HIV-1 Gag- or Pol-expressing targets, and the epitopes were mapped to within 9–20 amino acids. Comparisons of intra-individual cervical and blood CTL specificities indicate that epitopes recognized by CTL in the cervix were commonly recognized in the blood. These studies provide the first definitive evidence for an MHC-restricted effector function in human cervical lymphocytes.
PMCID: PMC2196121  PMID: 9016878
8.  Immune-Correlates Analysis of an HIV-1 Vaccine Efficacy Trial Reveals an Association of Nonspecific Interferon-γ Secretion with Increased HIV-1 Infection Risk: A Cohort-Based Modeling Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e108631.
Elevated risk of HIV-1 infection among recipients of an adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5)-vectored HIV-1 vaccine was previously reported in the Step HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trial. We assessed pre-infection cellular immune responses measured at 4 weeks after the second vaccination to determine their roles in HIV-1 infection susceptibility among Step study male participants.
We examined ex vivo interferon-γ (IFN-γ) secretion from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) using an ELISpot assay in 112 HIV-infected and 962 uninfected participants. In addition, we performed flow cytometric assays to examine T-cell activation, and ex vivo IFN-γ and interleukin-2 secretion from CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. We accounted for the sub-sampling design in Cox proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) of HIV-1 infection per 1-loge increase of the immune responses.
We found that HIV-specific immune responses were not associated with risk of HIV-1 infection. However, each 1-loge increase of mock responses measured by the ELISpot assay (i.e., IFN-γ secretion in the absence of antigen-specific stimulation) was associated with a 62% increase of HIV-1 infection risk among vaccine recipients (HR = 1.62, 95% CI: (1.28, 2.04), p<0.001). This association remains after accounting for CD4+ or CD8+ T-cell activation. We observed a moderate correlation between ELISpot mock responses and CD4+ T-cells secreting IFN-γ (ρ = 0.33, p = 0.007). In addition, the effect of the Step vaccine on infection risk appeared to vary with ELISpot mock response levels, especially among participants who had pre-existing anti-Ad5 antibodies (interaction p = 0.04).
The proportion of cells, likely CD4+ T-cells, producing IFN-γ without stimulation by exogenous antigen appears to carry information beyond T-cell activation and baseline characteristics that predict risk of HIV-1 infection. These results motivate additional investigation to understand the potential link between IFN-γ secretion and underlying causes of elevated HIV-1 infection risk among vaccine recipients in the Step study.
PMCID: PMC4219669  PMID: 25369172
9.  Daily Acyclovir to Decrease Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) Transmission from HSV-2/HIV-1 Coinfected Persons: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(9):1366-1374.
Background. Daily suppressive therapy with valacyclovir reduces risk of sexual transmission of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in HSV-2–serodiscordant heterosexual couples by 48%. Whether suppressive therapy reduces HSV-2 transmission from persons coinfected with HSV-2 and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is unknown.
Methods. Within a randomized trial of daily acyclovir 400 mg twice daily in African HIV-1 serodiscordant couples, in which the HIV-1–infected partner was HSV-2 seropositive, we identified partnerships in which HIV-1–susceptible partners were HSV-2 seronegative to estimate the effect of acyclovir on risk of HSV-2 transmission.
Results. We randomly assigned 911 HSV-2/HIV-1–serodiscordant couples to daily receipt of acyclovir or placebo. We observed 68 HSV-2 seroconversions, 40 and 28 in acyclovir and placebo groups, respectively (HSV-2 incidence, 5.1 cases per 100 person-years; hazard ratio [HR], 1.35 [95% confidence interval, .83–2.20]; P = .22). Among HSV-2–susceptible women, vaginal drying practices (adjusted HR, 44.35; P = .004) and unprotected sex (adjusted HR, 9.91; P = .002) were significant risk factors for HSV-2 acquisition; having more children was protective (adjusted HR, 0.47 per additional child; P = .012). Among HSV-2–susceptible men, only age ≤30 years was associated with increased risk of HSV-2 acquisition (P = .016).
Conclusions. Treatment of African HSV-2/HIV-1–infected persons with daily suppressive acyclovir did not decrease risk of HSV-2 transmission to susceptible partners. More-effective prevention strategies to reduce HSV-2 transmission from HIV-1–infected persons are needed.
PMCID: PMC3789565  PMID: 23901094
HSV-2; HIV-1; acyclovir; transmission; serodiscordant couples; Africa
10.  Vaccine-Induced Gag-Specific T Cells Are Associated With Reduced Viremia After HIV-1 Infection 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(8):1231-1239.
The contribution of host T-cell immunity and HLA class I alleles to the control of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) replication in natural infection is widely recognized. We assessed whether vaccine-induced T-cell immunity, or expression of certain HLA alleles, impacted HIV-1 control after infection in the Step MRKAd5/HIV-1 gag/pol/nef study. Vaccine-induced T cells were associated with reduced plasma viremia, with subjects targeting ≥3 gag peptides presenting with half-log lower mean viral loads than subjects without Gag responses. This effect was stronger in participants infected proximal to vaccination and was independent of our observed association of HLA-B*27, –B*57 and –B*58:01 alleles with lower HIV-1 viremia. These findings support the ability of vaccine-induced T-cell responses to influence postinfection outcome and provide a rationale for the generation of T-cell responses by vaccination to reduce viremia if protection from acquisition is not achieved. Clinical trials identifier: NCT00095576.
PMCID: PMC3778967  PMID: 23878319
HIV-1 vaccine; Step study; Gag-specific T cells; HLA class I alleles
11.  Differential Regulatory T Cell Activity in HIV Type 1-Exposed Seronegative Individuals 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2013;29(10):1321-1329.
The potential role of conventional and regulatory T cells (Tregs) in protection from HIV-1 infection remains unclear. To address this question, we analyzed samples from 129 HIV-1-exposed seronegative individuals (HESN) from an HIV-1-serodiscordant couples cohort. To assess the presence of HIV-specific T cell responses and Treg function, we measured the proliferation of T cells in response to HIV-1 peptide pools in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and PBMCs depleted of Tregs. We identified HIV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses and, surprisingly, the overall CD4+ and CD8+ T cell response rate was not increased when Tregs were removed from cell preparations. Of the 20 individuals that had HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cell responses, only eight had Tregs that could suppress this proliferation. When compared with individuals whose Tregs could suppress HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cell proliferation, individuals with Tregs unable to suppress showed a trend toward increased T cell activation and Treg frequency and a significant increase in HIV-1-specific production of microphage inflammatory protein-1β (MIP-1β) by CD4+ T cells, autocrine production of which has been shown to be protective in terms of HIV-1 infection of CD4+ T cells.
PMCID: PMC3785803  PMID: 23815575
12.  The Inner Foreskin of Healthy Males at Risk of HIV Infection Harbors Epithelial CD4+ CCR5+ Cells and Has Features of an Inflamed Epidermal Barrier 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108954.
Male circumcision provides partial protection against multiple sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, but the mechanisms are not fully understood. To examine potential vulnerabilities in foreskin epithelial structure, we used Wilcoxon paired tests adjusted using the false discovery rate method to compare inner and outer foreskin samples from 20 healthy, sexually active Peruvian males who have sex with males or transgender females, ages 21–29, at elevated risk of HIV infection. No evidence of epithelial microtrauma was identified, as assessed by keratinocyte activation, fibronectin deposition, or parakeratosis. However, multiple suprabasal tight junction differences were identified: 1) inner foreskin stratum corneum was thinner than outer (p = 0.035); 2) claudin 1 had extended membrane-bound localization throughout inner epidermis stratum spinosum (p = 0.035); 3) membrane-bound claudin 4 was absent from inner foreskin stratum granulosum (p = 0.035); and 4) occludin had increased membrane deposition in inner foreskin stratum granulosum (p = 0.042) versus outer. Together, this suggests subclinical inflammation and paracellular transport modifications to the inner foreskin. A setting of inflammation was further supported by inner foreskin epithelial explant cultures secreting higher levels of GM-CSF (p = 0.029), IP-10 (p = 0.035) and RANTES (p = 0.022) than outer foreskin, and also containing an increased density of CCR5+ and CD4+ CCR5+ cells (p = 0.022). Inner foreskin dermis also secreted more RANTES than outer (p = 0.036), and had increased density of CCR5+ cells (p = 0.022). In conclusion, subclinical changes to the inner foreskin of sexually active males may support an inflammatory state, with availability of target cells for HIV infection and modifications to epidermal barriers, potentially explaining the benefits of circumcision for STI prevention.
PMCID: PMC4182607  PMID: 25268493
13.  Optimization and qualification of a memory B-cell ELISpot for the detection of vaccine-induced memory responses in HIV vaccine trials 
Journal of immunological methods  2013;394(0):84-93.
Various aspects of the human immune system can be analyzed to determine the efficacy of a vaccine. We have developed a B-cell ELISpot to measure HIV-specific antibody-secreting B cells in the peripheral blood as a result of vaccination or natural infection. Our method includes stimulating peripheral blood mononuclear cells with interleukin-2 and a polyclonal activator, R848, to induce memory B cells to differentiate into antibody-secreting cells. Total immunoglobulin-secreting as well as antigen-specific B cells are then quantified. We have tested several HIV Env gp120 and gp140 proteins from different HIV subtypes, as well as a sensitive consensus group M Env gp140. Our findings indicate that the B-cell ELISpot provides a sensitive and specific tool to detect antigen-specific memory B-cell responses, and it is equally suited to detect antibody-secreting plasmablasts present in the circulation shortly after infection or vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3736720  PMID: 23707324
B-cell ELISpot; Antibody-secreting cells; Memory B-cell responses; Vaccine; HIV; Mucosal responses
14.  Human CD1a-deficiency is Common and Genetically Regulated1 
CD1 proteins evolved to present diverse lipid antigens to T cells. In comparison to MHC proteins, CD1 proteins exhibit minimal allelic diversity as a result of non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, it is unknown if common SNPs in gene regulatory regions affect CD1 expression and function. We report surprising diversity in patterns of inducible CD1a expression on human dendritic cells (DCs), spanning the full range from undetectable to high density, a finding not seen with other CD1 isoforms. CD1a-deficient DCs failed to present mycobacterial lipopeptide to T cells but had no defects in endocytosis, cytokine secretion, or expression of co-stimulatory molecules after LPS treatment. We identified a SNP in the 5’ untranslated region (rs366316) that was common and strongly associated with low CD1a surface expression and mRNA levels (p=0.03 and p=0.001, respectively). Using a CD1a promoter-luciferase system in combination with mutagenesis studies, we found that the polymorphic allele reduced luciferase expression by 44% compared to the wild-type variant (p<0.001). Genetic regulation of lipid antigen presentation by varying expression on human DCs provides a mechanism for achieving population level differences in immune responses despite limited structural variation in CD1a proteins.
PMCID: PMC3748949  PMID: 23858036
15.  FCGR2C polymorphisms associate with HIV-1 vaccine protection in RV144 trial 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(9):3879-3890.
The phase III RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial estimated vaccine efficacy (VE) to be 31.2%. This trial demonstrated that the presence of HIV-1–specific IgG-binding Abs to envelope (Env) V1V2 inversely correlated with infection risk, while the presence of Env-specific plasma IgA Abs directly correlated with risk of HIV-1 infection. Moreover, Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity responses inversely correlated with risk of infection in vaccine recipients with low IgA; therefore, we hypothesized that vaccine-induced Fc receptor–mediated (FcR-mediated) Ab function is indicative of vaccine protection. We sequenced exons and surrounding areas of FcR-encoding genes and found one FCGR2C tag SNP (rs114945036) that associated with VE against HIV-1 subtype CRF01_AE, with lysine at position 169 (169K) in the V2 loop (CRF01_AE 169K). Individuals carrying CC in this SNP had an estimated VE of 15%, while individuals carrying CT or TT exhibited a VE of 91%. Furthermore, the rs114945036 SNP was highly associated with 3 other FCGR2C SNPs (rs138747765, rs78603008, and rs373013207). Env-specific IgG and IgG3 Abs, IgG avidity, and neutralizing Abs inversely correlated with CRF01_AE 169K HIV-1 infection risk in the CT- or TT-carrying vaccine recipients only. These data suggest a potent role of Fc-γ receptors and Fc-mediated Ab function in conferring protection from transmission risk in the RV144 VE trial.
PMCID: PMC4151214  PMID: 25105367
16.  Analysis of HLA A*02 Association with Vaccine Efficacy in the RV144 HIV-1 Vaccine Trial 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(15):8242-8255.
The RV144 HIV-1 vaccine trial demonstrated partial efficacy of 31% against HIV-1 infection. Studies into possible correlates of protection found that antibodies specific to the V1 and V2 (V1/V2) region of envelope correlated inversely with infection risk and that viruses isolated from trial participants contained genetic signatures of vaccine-induced pressure in the V1/V2 region. We explored the hypothesis that the genetic signatures in V1 and V2 could be partly attributed to selection by vaccine-primed T cells. We performed a T-cell-based sieve analysis of breakthrough viruses in the RV144 trial and found evidence of predicted HLA binding escape that was greater in vaccine versus placebo recipients. The predicted escape depended on class I HLA A*02- and A*11-restricted epitopes in the MN strain rgp120 vaccine immunogen. Though we hypothesized that this was indicative of postacquisition selection pressure, we also found that vaccine efficacy (VE) was greater in A*02-positive (A*02+) participants than in A*02− participants (VE = 54% versus 3%, P = 0.05). Vaccine efficacy against viruses with a lysine residue at site 169, important to antibody binding and implicated in vaccine-induced immune pressure, was also greater in A*02+ participants (VE = 74% versus 15%, P = 0.02). Additionally, a reanalysis of vaccine-induced immune responses that focused on those that were shown to correlate with infection risk suggested that the humoral responses may have differed in A*02+ participants. These exploratory and hypothesis-generating analyses indicate there may be an association between a class I HLA allele and vaccine efficacy, highlighting the importance of considering HLA alleles and host immune genetics in HIV vaccine trials.
IMPORTANCE The RV144 trial was the first to show efficacy against HIV-1 infection. Subsequently, much effort has been directed toward understanding the mechanisms of protection. Here, we conducted a T-cell-based sieve analysis, which compared the genetic sequences of viruses isolated from infected vaccine and placebo recipients. Though we hypothesized that the observed sieve effect indicated postacquisition T-cell selection, we also found that vaccine efficacy was greater for participants who expressed HLA A*02, an allele implicated in the sieve analysis. Though HLA alleles have been associated with disease progression and viral load in HIV-1 infection, these data are the first to suggest the association of a class I HLA allele and vaccine efficacy. While these statistical analyses do not provide mechanistic evidence of protection in RV144, they generate testable hypotheses for the HIV vaccine community and they highlight the importance of assessing the impact of host immune genetics in vaccine-induced immunity and protection. (This study has been registered at under registration no. NCT00223080.)
PMCID: PMC4135964  PMID: 24829343
17.  HIV-1 Specific IgA Detected in Vaginal Secretions of HIV Uninfected Women Participating in a Microbicide Trial in Southern Africa Are Primarily Directed Toward gp120 and gp140 Specificities 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101863.
Many participants in microbicide trials remain uninfected despite ongoing exposure to HIV-1. Determining the emergence and nature of mucosal HIV-specific immune responses in such women is important, since these responses may contribute to protection and could provide insight for the rational design of HIV-1 vaccines.
Methods and Findings
We first conducted a pilot study to compare three sampling devices (Dacron swabs, flocked nylon swabs and Merocel sponges) for detection of HIV-1-specific IgG and IgA antibodies in vaginal secretions. IgG antibodies from HIV-1-positive women reacted broadly across the full panel of eight HIV-1 envelope (Env) antigens tested, whereas IgA antibodies only reacted to the gp41 subunit. No Env-reactive antibodies were detected in the HIV-negative women. The three sampling devices yielded equal HIV-1-specific antibody titers, as well as total IgG and IgA concentrations. We then tested vaginal Dacron swabs archived from 57 HIV seronegative women who participated in a microbicide efficacy trial in Southern Africa (HPTN 035). We detected vaginal IgA antibodies directed at HIV-1 Env gp120/gp140 in six of these women, and at gp41 in another three women, but did not detect Env-specific IgG antibodies in any women.
Vaginal secretions of HIV-1 infected women contained IgG reactivity to a broad range of Env antigens and IgA reactivity to gp41. In contrast, Env-binding antibodies in the vaginal secretions of HIV-1 uninfected women participating in the microbicide trial were restricted to the IgA subtype and were mostly directed at HIV-1 gp120/gp140.
PMCID: PMC4108330  PMID: 25054205
18.  Increased Sequence Coverage through Combined Targeting of Variant and Conserved Epitopes Correlates with Control of HIV Replication 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(2):1354-1365.
A major challenge in the development of an HIV vaccine is that of contending with the extensive sequence variability found in circulating viruses. Induction of HIV-specific T-cell responses targeting conserved regions and induction of HIV-specific T-cell responses recognizing a high number of epitope variants have both been proposed as strategies to overcome this challenge. We addressed the ability of cytotoxic T lymphocytes from 30 untreated HIV-infected subjects with and without control of virus replication to recognize all clade B Gag sequence variants encoded by at least 5% of the sequences in the Los Alamos National Laboratory HIV database (1,300 peptides) using gamma interferon and interleukin-2 (IFN-γ/IL-2) FluoroSpot analysis. While targeting of conserved regions was similar in the two groups (P = 0.47), we found that subjects with control of virus replication demonstrated marginally lower recognition of Gag epitope variants than subjects with normal progression (P = 0.05). In viremic controllers and progressors, we found variant recognition to be associated with viral load (r = 0.62, P = 0.001). Interestingly, we show that increased overall sequence coverage, defined as the overall proportion of HIV database sequences targeted through the Gag-specific repertoire, is inversely associated with viral load (r = −0.38, P = 0.03). Furthermore, we found that sequence coverage, but not variant recognition, correlated with increased recognition of a panel of clade B HIV founder viruses (r = 0.50, P = 0.004). We propose sequence coverage by HIV Gag-specific immune responses as a possible correlate of protection that may contribute to control of virus replication. Additionally, sequence coverage serves as a valuable measure by which to evaluate the protective potential of future vaccination strategies.
PMCID: PMC3911649  PMID: 24227851
19.  Progress in HIV-1 Vaccine Development 
Current opinion in HIV and AIDS  2013;8(4):326-332.
Purpose of the Review
In this review, examples of recent progress in HIV-1 vaccine research are discussed.
Recent Findings
New insights from the immune correlates analyses of the RV144 efficacy trial have accelerated vaccine development with leads to follow in non-human primate studies and improved vaccine designs. Several new vaccine vector approaches offer promise in exquisite control of acute infection and in improving the breadth of T cell responses. New targets of broadly neutralizing antibodies (BnAbs) have been elucidated, and improved understanding of how the human host controls BnAb development have emerged from BnAb knockin mice and from analyses of BnAb maturation and virus evolution in subjects followed from the time of HIV-1 transmission to BnAb induction.
Based on these observations, it is clear that development of a successful HIV-1 vaccine will require new vaccine approaches and iterative testing of immunogens in well-designed animal and human trials.
PMCID: PMC3947525  PMID: 23743722
immune correlates; broad neutralizing antibodies; T cells; viral diversity
20.  Efficacy Trial of a DNA/rAd5 HIV-1 Preventive Vaccine 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;369(22):2083-2092.
A safe and effective vaccine for the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is a global priority. We tested the efficacy of a DNA prime–recombinant adenovirus type 5 boost (DNA/rAd5) vaccine regimen in persons at increased risk for HIV-1 infection in the United States.
At 21 sites, we randomly assigned 2504 men or transgender women who have sex with men to receive the DNA/rAd5 vaccine (1253 participants) or placebo (1251 participants). We assessed HIV-1 acquisition from week 28 through month 24 (termed week 28+ infection), viral-load set point (mean plasma HIV-1 RNA level 10 to 20 weeks after diagnosis), and safety. The 6-plasmid DNA vaccine (expressing clade B Gag, Pol, and Nef and Env proteins from clades A, B, and C) was administered at weeks 0, 4, and 8. The rAd5 vector boost (expressing clade B Gag-Pol fusion protein and Env glycoproteins from clades A, B, and C) was administered at week 24.
In April 2013, the data and safety monitoring board recommended halting vaccinations for lack of efficacy. The primary analysis showed that week 28+ infection had been diagnosed in 27 participants in the vaccine group and 21 in the placebo group (vaccine efficacy, −25.0%; 95% confidence interval, −121.2 to 29.3; P = 0.44), with mean viral-load set points of 4.46 and 4.47 HIV-1 RNA log10 copies per milliliter, respectively. Analysis of all infections during the study period (41 in the vaccine group and 31 in the placebo group) also showed lack of vaccine efficacy (P = 0.28). The vaccine regimen had an acceptable side-effect profile.
The DNA/rAd5 vaccine regimen did not reduce either the rate of HIV-1 acquisition or the viral-load set point in the population studied. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; number, NCT00865566.)
PMCID: PMC4030634  PMID: 24099601
21.  Plasma Viral Loads During Early HIV-1 Infection Are Similar in Subtype C– and Non-Subtype C–Infected African Seroconverters 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;207(7):1166-1170.
Recent data suggest that infection with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) subtype C results in prolonged high-level viremia (>5 log10 copies/mL) during early infection. We examined the relationship between HIV-1 subtype and plasma viremia among 153 African seroconverters. Mean setpoint viral loads were similar for C and non-C subtypes: 4.36 vs 4.42 log10 copies/mL (P = .61). The proportion of subtype C–infected participants with viral loads >5 log10 copies/mL was not greater than the proportion for those with non-C infection. Our data do not support the hypothesis that higher early viral load accounts for the rapid spread of HIV-1 subtype C in southern Africa.
PMCID: PMC3583276  PMID: 23315322
HIV-1; group M subtype; plasma viral load; early infection; Africa
22.  Two new monoclonal antibodies for biochemical and flow cytometric analyses of human interferon regulatory factor-3 activation, turnover, and depletion 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2012;59(2):225-232.
Interferon regulatory factor-3 (IRF-3) is a master transcription factor that drives the host intracellular innate immune response to virus infection. The importance of IRF-3 in innate immune responses is highlighted by the fact that pathogenic viruses have developed strategies for antagonism of IRF-3. Several tools exist for evaluation of viral regulation of IRF-3 activation and function, but high-quality monoclonal antibodies that mark the differential activation states of human IRF-3 are lacking. To study IRF-3 activation, turnover, and depletion in a high-throughput manner in the context of virus infection, we have developed two new monoclonal antibodies to human IRF-3. These antibodies detect IRF-3 in virus-infected cells in a wide variety of assays and provide a new tool to study virus-host interactions and innate immune signaling.
PMCID: PMC3568209  PMID: 22705311
Innate immunity; IRF-3; antibody development; flow cytometry
23.  Characterization of Humoral and Cellular Immune Responses Elicited by a Recombinant Adenovirus Serotype 26 HIV-1 Env Vaccine in Healthy Adults (IPCAVD 001) 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;207(2):248-256.
Background. Adenovirus serotype 26 (Ad26) has been developed as a novel candidate vaccine vector for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and other pathogens. The primary safety and immunogenicity data from the Integrated Preclinical/Clinical AIDS Vaccine Development Program (IPCAVD) 001 trial, the first-in-human evaluation of a prototype Ad26 vector-based vaccine expressing clade A HIV-1 Env (Ad26.ENVA.01), are reported concurrently with this article. Here, we characterize in greater detail the humoral and cellular immune responses elicited by Ad26.ENVA.01 in humans.
Methods. Samples from the IPCAVD 001 trial were used for humoral and cellular immunogenicity assays.
Results. We observed a dose-dependent expansion of the magnitude, breadth, and epitopic diversity of Env-specific binding antibody responses elicited by this vaccine. Antibody-dependent cell-mediated phagocytosis, virus inhibition, and degranulation functional activity were also observed. Env-specific cellular immune responses induced by the vaccine included multiple CD8+ and CD4+ T-lymphocyte memory subpopulations and cytokine secretion phenotypes, although cellular immune breadth was limited. Baseline vector-specific T-lymphocyte responses were common but did not impair Env-specific immune responses in this study.
Conclusion. Ad26.ENVA.01 elicited a broad diversity of humoral and cellular immune responses in humans. These data support the further clinical development of Ad26 as a candidate vaccine vector.
Clinical Trials Registration. NCT00618605.
PMCID: PMC3532832  PMID: 23125443
HIV-1; Vaccine; Adenovirus 26; Immunogenicity
24.  Optimizing Viable Leukocyte Sampling from the Female Genital Tract for Clinical Trials: An International Multi-Site Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85675.
Functional analysis of mononuclear leukocytes in the female genital mucosa is essential for understanding the immunologic effects of HIV vaccines and microbicides at the site of HIV exposure. However, the best female genital tract sampling technique is unclear.
Methods and Findings
We enrolled women from four sites in Africa and the US to compare three genital leukocyte sampling methods: cervicovaginal lavages (CVL), endocervical cytobrushes, and ectocervical biopsies. Absolute yields of mononuclear leukocyte subpopulations were determined by flow cytometric bead-based cell counting. Of the non-invasive sampling types, two combined sequential cytobrushes yielded significantly more viable mononuclear leukocytes than a CVL (p<0.0001). In a subsequent comparison, two cytobrushes yielded as many leukocytes (∼10,000) as one biopsy, with macrophages/monocytes being more prominent in cytobrushes and T lymphocytes in biopsies. Sample yields were consistent between sites. In a subgroup analysis, we observed significant reproducibility between replicate same-day biopsies (r = 0.89, p = 0.0123). Visible red blood cells in cytobrushes increased leukocyte yields more than three-fold (p = 0.0078), but did not change their subpopulation profile, indicating that these leukocytes were still largely derived from the mucosa and not peripheral blood. We also confirmed that many CD4+ T cells in the female genital tract express the α4β7 integrin, an HIV envelope-binding mucosal homing receptor.
CVL sampling recovered the lowest number of viable mononuclear leukocytes. Two cervical cytobrushes yielded comparable total numbers of viable leukocytes to one biopsy, but cytobrushes and biopsies were biased toward macrophages and T lymphocytes, respectively. Our study also established the feasibility of obtaining consistent flow cytometric analyses of isolated genital cells from four study sites in the US and Africa. These data represent an important step towards implementing mucosal cell sampling in international clinical trials of HIV prevention.
PMCID: PMC3893217  PMID: 24454917

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