Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is an immunoregulatory cytokine that influences the clinical outcome of chronic viral infections. Results show that IL-10-promoter genetic variants influence human immunodeficiency virus-1 pathogenesis possibly via regulating IL-10 plasma levels and the breadth of CD8+ T-cell immune responses.
Background. Interleukin-10 (IL-10) is a potent immunoregulatory cytokine. IL-10-promoter polymorphisms have been shown to affect human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) clinical outcomes but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood.
Methods. We investigated the relationship between IL-10-promoter variants, plasma cytokine levels, immune responses and markers of disease outcome in antiretroviral-naïve HIV-1 chronically infected individuals from South Africa. Two IL-10-promoter single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in 451 participants. Baseline plasma levels of select cytokines were measured for 112 individuals. Viral load, CD4+ T-cell counts and HIV-1-specific interferon-gamma CD8+ T-cell immune responses were measured at baseline. CD4+ T-cell counts were measured longitudinally and rates of CD4+ T-cell decline computed for 300 study subjects.
Results. The minor IL-10-1082G and -592A variants occurred at frequencies of 0.31 and 0.34, respectively. The -592AA genotype associated significantly with attenuated loss of CD4+ T cells (P = .0496). Individuals possessing -1082GG had significantly higher IL-10 levels compared to -1082AA/AG (P = .0006). The -592AA genotype was associated with greater breadth of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses compared to CC and CA (P = .002 and .004 respectively).
Conclusions. IL-10-promoter variants may influence the rate of HIV-1 disease progression by regulating IL-10 levels and the breadth of CD8+ T-cell immune responses.
HIV-1 attenuation resulting from immune escape mutations selected in Gag may contribute to slower disease progression in HIV-1-infected individuals expressing certain HLA class I alleles. We previously showed that the protective allele HLA-B*81 and the HLA-B*81-selected Gag T186S mutation are strongly associated with a lower viral replication capacity of recombinant viruses encoding Gag-protease derived from individuals chronically infected with HIV-1 subtype C. In the present study, we directly tested the effect of this mutation on viral replication capacity. In addition, we investigated potential compensatory effects of various polymorphisms, including other HLA-B*81-associated mutations that significantly covary with the T186S mutation. Mutations were introduced into a reference subtype B backbone and into patient-derived subtype C sequences in subtype B and C backbones by site-directed mutagenesis. The exponential-phase growth of mutant and wild-type viruses was assayed by flow cytometry of a green fluorescent protein reporter T cell line or by measurement of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase activity in culture supernatants. Engineering of the T186S mutation alone into all patient-derived subtype C sequences failed to yield replication-competent viruses, while in the subtype B sequence, the T186S mutation resulted in impaired replication capacity. Only the T186S mutation in combination with the T190I mutation yielded replication-competent viruses for all virus backbones tested; however, these constructs replicated slower than the wild type, suggesting that only partial compensation is mediated by the T190I mutation. Constructs encoding the T186S mutation in combination with other putative compensatory mutations were attenuated or defective. These results suggest that the T186S mutation is deleterious to HIV-1 subtype C replication and likely requires complex compensatory pathways, which may contribute to the clinical benefit associated with HLA-B*81.
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)-γ+ 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-γ, CD107a, TNF-α, MIP-1β), 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.
It is unknown whether favorable HLA class II alleles may attenuate HIV-1 through selection pressure in a manner similar to that of protective HLA class I alleles. We investigated the relationship between HLA class II alleles and in vitro replication capacities of recombinant viruses encoding HIV-1 subtype C Gag-protease from chronically infected individuals. No associations were found between individual alleles and lower replication capacity, suggesting no significant HIV-1 attenuation by HLA class II-restricted Gag-specific CD4+ T cell immune pressure.
Recent studies suggest that natural killer T (NKT) cells play a role in early antiviral pathogenesis and are rapidly depleted in chronic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) clade B infection. We aimed to characterize the phenotypic and functional characteristics of NKT cells in HIV-1 clade C-infected Africans at different stages of HIV-1 disease. NKT cell frequencies, subsets, and ex vivo effector functions were assessed using multiparametric flow cytometry in a cross-sectional analysis of cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a cohort of 53 HIV-1 clade C chronically infected South African adults with CD4 T cell counts ranging from 94 to 839 cells/μl. We observed a significant decline of NKT cell numbers in advanced HIV-1 disease as well as activation and functional impairment of NKT cells in individuals with low CD4 T cell counts. The loss of NKT cells was largely driven by a reduction in the CD4+ and CD4–CD8– NKT cell subsets in advanced disease. These findings demonstrate significant impairment of the NKT cell compartment in progressive HIV-1 clade C disease that might play an important role in the modulation of immune function in HIV-1 infection.
The promiscuous presentation of epitopes by similar HLA class I alleles holds promise for a universal T-cell-based HIV-1 vaccine. However, in some instances, cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) restricted by HLA alleles with similar or identical binding motifs are known to target epitopes at different frequencies, with different functional avidities and with different apparent clinical outcomes. Such differences may be illuminated by the association of similar HLA alleles with distinctive escape pathways. Using a novel computational method featuring phylogenetically corrected odds ratios, we systematically analyzed differential patterns of immune escape across all optimally defined epitopes in Gag, Pol, and Nef in 2,126 HIV-1 clade C-infected adults. Overall, we identified 301 polymorphisms in 90 epitopes associated with HLA alleles belonging to shared supertypes. We detected differential escape in 37 of 38 epitopes restricted by more than one allele, which included 278 instances of differential escape at the polymorphism level. The majority (66 to 97%) of these resulted from the selection of unique HLA-specific polymorphisms rather than differential epitope targeting rates, as confirmed by gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assay (ELISPOT) data. Discordant associations between HLA alleles and viral load were frequently observed between allele pairs that selected for differential escape. Furthermore, the total number of associated polymorphisms strongly correlated with average viral load. These studies confirm that differential escape is a widespread phenomenon and may be the norm when two alleles present the same epitope. Given the clinical correlates of immune escape, such heterogeneity suggests that certain epitopes will lead to discordant outcomes if applied universally in a vaccine.
One proposed HIV vaccine strategy is to induce Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell responses that can corner the virus, through fitness cost of viral escape and unavailability of compensatory mutations. We show here that the most variable capsid residues principally comprise escape mutants driven by protective alleles HLA-B*57, -5801, and -8101 and covarying HLA-independent polymorphisms that arise in conjunction with these escape mutations. These covarying polymorphisms are potentially compensatory and are concentrated around three tropism-determining loops of p24, suggesting structural interdependencies. Our results demonstrate complex patterns of adaptation of HIV under immune selection pressure, the understanding of which should aid vaccine design.
The association between HLA-B*2705 and the immune control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has previously been linked to the targeting of the HLA-B*2705-restricted Gag epitope KRWIILGLNK (KK10) by CD8+ T cells. In order to better define the mechanisms of the HLA-B*2705 immune control of HIV, we first characterized the CD8+ T-cell responses of nine highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)-naïve B*2705-positive subjects. Unexpectedly, we observed a strong response to an HLA-B*2705-restricted Pol epitope, KRKGGIGGY (KY9), in 8/9 subjects. The magnitude of the KY9 response was only marginally lower than that of the KK10-specific response (median, 695 versus 867 spot-forming cells [SFC]/million peripheral blood mononuclear cells [PBMCs]; not significant [NS]), and viral escape mutants were observed in both KY9 and KK10, resulting from selection pressure driven by the respective CD8+ T-cell response. By comparing inhibitions of viral replication by CD8+ T cells specific for the Gag KK10, Pol KY9, and Vpr VL9 HLA-B*2705-restricted epitopes, we observed a consistent hierarchy of antiviral efficacy (Gag KK10 > Pol KY9 > Vpr VL9). This hierarchy was associated with early recognition of HIV-1-infected cells, within 6 h of infection, by KK10- and KY9-specific CD8+ T cells but not until 18 h postinfection by VL9-specific CD8+ T cells. There was no association between antiviral efficacy and proliferative capacity, cytotoxicity, polyfunctionality, or T-cell receptor (TCR) avidity. These data are consistent with previous studies indicating an important role for the B*2705-Gag KK10 response in the control of HIV but also suggest a previously unrecognized role played by the subdominant Pol-specific KY9 response in HLA-B*2705-mediated control of HIV and that the recognition of HIV-infected cells by CD8+ T cells early in the viral life cycle may be important for viral containment in HIV-infected individuals.
The mechanisms underlying HIV-1 control by protective HLA class I alleles are not fully understood and could involve selection of escape mutations in functionally important Gag epitopes resulting in fitness costs. This study was undertaken to investigate, at the population level, the impact of HLA-mediated immune pressure in Gag on viral fitness and its influence on HIV-1 pathogenesis. Replication capacities of 406 recombinant viruses encoding plasma-derived Gag-protease from patients chronically infected with HIV-1 subtype C were assayed in an HIV-1-inducible green fluorescent protein reporter cell line. Viral replication capacities varied significantly with respect to the specific HLA-B alleles expressed by the patient, and protective HLA-B alleles, most notably HLA-B*81, were associated with lower replication capacities. HLA-associated mutations at low-entropy sites, especially the HLA-B*81-associated 186S mutation in the TL9 epitope, were associated with lower replication capacities. Most mutations linked to alterations in replication capacity in the conserved p24 region decreased replication capacity, while most in the highly variable p17 region increased replication capacity. Replication capacity also correlated positively with baseline viral load and negatively with baseline CD4 count but did not correlate with the subsequent rate of CD4 decline. In conclusion, there is evidence that protective HLA alleles, in particular HLA-B*81, significantly influence Gag-protease function by driving sequence changes in Gag and that conserved regions of Gag should be included in a vaccine aiming to drive HIV-1 toward a less fit state. However, the long-term clinical benefit of immune-driven fitness costs is uncertain given the lack of correlation with longitudinal markers of disease progression.
HIV can be partially contained by host immunity and understanding the basis of this may inform vaccine design. The importance of B-cell function in long-term control is poorly understood. One method of investigating this is in vivo cellular depletion. In this study, we take advantage of a unique opportunity to investigate the role of B cells in an HIV-infected patient. The HIV-1+ patient studied here was not taking antiretroviral drugs and was treated for pre-existing low-grade lymphoplasmacytoid lymphoma by depletion of CD20+ B cells using rituximab. We demonstrate that B-cell depletion results in a decline in autologous neutralizing antibody (NAb) responses and a 1.7 log10 rise in HIV-1 plasma viral load (pVL). The recovery of NAbs results in a decline in pVL. The HIV-1 sequences diversify and NAb-resistant mutants are subsequently selected. These data suggest that B-cell function can contribute to the long-term control of pVL, and that NAbs may be more important in controlling chronic HIV-1 infection than previously suspected.
HIV infection can be partially regulated by the host immune system; however whether B cells contribute to this response is unclear. Huang et al. show that transient depletion of B cells can result in an increase in HIV viral load suggesting that these immune cells do participate in the control of HIV infection.
The recent failure of the T-cell-based HIV vaccine trial led by Merck & Co., Inc. prompts the urgent need to refocus on the question of which T-cell responses are required to control HIV replication. The well-described association between the expression of particular MHC class I molecules and successful containment of HIV or, in the macaque model, SIV replication provide a valuable starting point from which to evaluate more precisely what might constitute effective CD8+ T-cell responses. Here, we review recent studies of T-cell-mediated control of HIV and SIV infection, and offer insight for the design of a successful T-cell-based HIV vaccine in the future.
HIV-1 specific HLA-B-restricted CD8+ T cell responses differ from HLA-C-restricted responses in antiviral effectiveness. To investigate possible reasons for these differences, we characterized the frequency and polyfunctionality of immmunodominant HLA-B*57/B5801- and HLA-Cw*07-restricted CD8+ T cells occurring concurrently in nine study subjects assessing IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, MIP-1β, and CD107a by flow cytometry and analyzed sequence variation in targeted epitopes. HLA-B*57/5801 and HLA-Cw*07 restricted CD8+ T cells did not differ significantly in polyfunctionality (p = 0.84). Possession of three or more functions correlated positively with CD4+ T cell counts (r = 0.85; p = 0.006) and monofunctional CD8+ T cells inversely correlated with CD4 cell counts (r = −0.79; p = 0.05). There were no differences in polyfunctionality of CD8+ T cells specific to wildtype versus mutated epitopes. These results suggest that loss of polyfunctionality and increase in monofunctional HIV-1-specific CD8+ T cells are associated with disease progression independent of restricting HLA allele. Furthermore, sequence variation does not appear to significantly impact CD8+ T cell polyfunctionality in chronic HIV-1 infection.
HLA-B*57/5801; HLA-C; HIV-1 chronic infection; CD8+ T cells; Polyfunctionality
Previous studies have identified a central role for HLA-B alleles in influencing control of HIV infection. An alternative possibility is that a small number of HLA-B alleles may have a very strong impact on HIV disease outcome, dominating the contribution of other HLA alleles. Here, we find that even following the exclusion of subjects expressing any of the HLA-B class I alleles (B*57, B*58, and B*18) identified to have the strongest influence on control, the dominant impact of HLA-B alleles on virus set point and absolute CD4 count variation remains significant. However, we also find that the influence of HLA on HIV control in this C-clade-infected cohort from South Africa extends beyond HLA-B as HLA-Cw type remains a significant predictor of virus and CD4 count following exclusion of the strongest HLA-B associations. Furthermore, there is evidence of interdependent protective effects of the HLA-Cw*0401-B*8101, HLA-Cw*1203-B*3910, and HLA-A*7401-B*5703 haplotypes that cannot be explained solely by linkage to a protective HLA-B allele. Analysis of individuals expressing both protective and detrimental alleles shows that even the strongest HLA alleles appear to have an additive rather than dominant effect on HIV control at the individual level. Finally, weak but significant frequency-dependent effects in this cohort can be detected only by looking at an individual's combined HLA allele frequencies. Taken together, these data suggest that although individual HLA alleles, particularly HLA-B, can have a strong impact, HIV control overall is likely to be influenced by the additive effect of some or all of the other HLA alleles present.
The selection of escape mutations has a major impact on immune control of infections with viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Viral evasion of CD8+ T-cell responses leaves predictable combinations of escape mutations, termed HLA “footprints.” The most clearly defined footprints are those associated with HLA alleles that are linked with successful control of HIV, such as HLA-B*57. Here we investigated the extent to which HLA footprint sites in HIV type 1 (HIV-1) are associated with viral evolution among and within clades. First, we examined the extent to which amino acid differences between HIV-1 clades share identity with sites of HLA-mediated selection pressure and observed a strong association, in particular with respect to sites of HLA-B selection (P < 10−6). Similarly, the sites of amino acid variability within a clade were found to overlap with sites of HLA-selected mutation. Second, we studied the impact of HLA selection on interclade phylogeny. Removing the sites of amino acid variability did not significantly affect clade-specific clustering, reflecting the central role of founder effects in establishing distinct clades. However, HLA footprints may underpin founder strains, and we show that amino acid substitutions between clades alter phylogeny, underlining a potentially substantial role for HLA in driving ongoing viral evolution. Finally, we investigated the impact of HLA selection on within-clade phylogeny and demonstrate that even a single HLA allele footprint can result in significant phylogenetic clustering of sequences. In conclusion, these data highlight the fact that HLA can be a strong selection force for both intra- and interclade HIV evolution at a population level.
The observed association between HLA-B*13 and control of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection has been linked to the number of Gag-specific HLA-B*13-restricted cytotoxic T-cell (CTL) responses identified. To date, the Gag escape mutations described that result in an in vitro fitness cost to the virus have been located within structural protein p24 only. Here we investigated the hypothesis that CTL escape mutations within other regions of HIV Gag may also reduce viral fitness and contribute to immune control. We analyzed an HLA-B*13-restricted CTL response toward an epitope in p1 Gag, RQANFLGKI429-437 (RI9), where amino acid variation at Gag residues 436 and 437 is associated with HLA-B*13 expression. In this work, we assessed the impact of amino acid substitutions at these positions on CTL recognition and on HIV-1 fitness. We demonstrated that substitutions I437L and I437M largely abrogate CTL recognition and reduce viral fitness while variants K436R and I437V have only a marginal effect on recognition and fitness. Examination of the patterns of protein synthesis indicated that the loss of fitness in the I437L and I437M mutants is associated with the accumulation of unprocessed Gag precursors. A significant reduction in ribosomal frameshifting efficiency was observed with I437M, suggesting that this mechanism contributes to the observed reduced fitness of this virus. These studies illustrate the apparent trade-off available to the virus between evasion of CTL recognition in p1 Gag and the functional consequences for viral fitness.
HIV-1 can evolve HLA-specific escape variants in response to HLA-mediated cellular immunity. HLA alleles that are common in the host population may increase the frequency of such escape variants at the population level. When loss of viral fitness is caused by immune escape variation, these variants may revert upon infection of a new host who does not have the corresponding HLA allele. Furthermore, additional escape variants may appear in response to the nonconcordant HLA alleles. Because individuals with rare HLA alleles are less likely to be infected by a partner with concordant HLA alleles, viral populations infecting hosts with rare HLA alleles may undergo a greater amount of evolution than those infecting hosts with common alleles due to the loss of preexisting escape variants followed by new immune escape. This hypothesis was evaluated using maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees of each gene from 272 full-length HIV-1 sequences. Recent viral evolution, as measured by the external branch length, was found to be inversely associated with HLA frequency in nef (p<0.02), env (p<0.03), and pol (p≤0.05), suggesting that rare HLA alleles provide a disproportionate force driving viral evolution compared to common alleles, likely due to the loss of preexisting escape variants during early stages postinfection.
Much uncertainty still exists over what T-cell responses need to be induced by an effective human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine. Previous studies have hypothesized that the effective CD8+ T-cell responses are those driving the selection of escape mutations that reduce viral fitness and therefore revert posttransmission. In this study, we adopted a novel approach to define better the role of reverting escape mutations in immune control of HIV infection. This analysis of sequences from 710 study subjects with chronic C-clade HIV type 1 infection demonstrates the importance of mutations that impose a fitness cost in the control of viremia. Consistent with previous studies, the viral set points associated with each HLA-B allele are strongly correlated with the number of Gag-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-B allele (r = −0.56, P = 0.0034). The viral set points associated with each HLA-C allele were also strongly correlated with the number of Pol-specific polymorphisms associated with the relevant HLA-C allele (r = −0.67, P = 0.0047). However, critically, both these correlations were dependent solely on the polymorphisms identified as reverting. Therefore, despite the inevitable evolution of viral escape, viremia can be controlled through the selection of mutations that are detrimental to viral fitness. The significance of these results is in highlighting the rationale for an HIV vaccine that can induce these broad responses.
In a study of 114 epidemiologically linked Zambian transmission pairs, we evaluated the impact of human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I)–associated amino acid polymorphisms, presumed to reflect cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) escape in Gag and Nef of the virus transmitted from the chronically infected donor, on the plasma viral load (VL) in matched recipients 6 mo after infection. CTL escape mutations in Gag and Nef were seen in the donors, which were subsequently transmitted to recipients, largely unchanged soon after infection. We observed a significant correlation between the number of Gag escape mutations targeted by specific HLA-B allele–restricted CTLs and reduced VLs in the recipients. This negative correlation was most evident in newly infected individuals, whose HLA alleles were unable to effectively target Gag and select for CTL escape mutations in this gene. Nef mutations in the donor had no impact on VL in the recipient. Thus, broad Gag-specific CTL responses capable of driving virus escape in the donor may be of clinical benefit to both the donor and recipient. In addition to their direct implications for HIV-1 vaccine design, these data suggest that CTL-induced viral polymorphisms and their associated in vivo viral fitness costs could have a significant impact on HIV-1 pathogenesis.
HLA class-I alleles differ in their ability to control HIV replication through cell-mediated immune responses. No consistent associations have been found between the breadth of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (CTL) responses and the control of HIV-1, and it is unknown whether the size or distribution of the viral proteome-wide epitope repertoire, i.e., the intrinsic ability to present fewer, more or specific viral epitopes, could affect clinical markers of disease progression.
We used an epitope prediction model to identify all epitope motifs in a set of 302 HIV-1 full-length proteomes according to each individual's HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) genotype. The epitope repertoire, i.e., the number of predicted epitopes per HIV-1 proteome, varied considerably between HLA alleles and thus among individual proteomes. In a subgroup of 270 chronically infected individuals, we found that lower viral loads and higher CD4 counts were associated with a larger predicted epitope repertoire. Additionally, in Gag and Rev only, more epitopes were restricted by alleles associated with low viral loads than by alleles associated with higher viral loads.
This comprehensive analysis puts forth the epitope repertoire as a mechanistic component of the multi-faceted HIV-specific CTL response. The favorable impact on markers of disease status of the propensity to present more HLA binding peptides and specific proteins gives impetus to vaccine design strategies that seek to elicit responses to a broad array of HIV-1 epitopes, and suggest a particular focus on Gag.
Recombinant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) strains containing sequences from different viral genetic subtypes (intersubtype) and different lineages from within the same subtype (intrasubtype) have been observed. A consequence of recombination can be the distortion of the phylogenetic signal. Several intersubtype recombinants have been identified; however, less is known about the frequency of intrasubtype recombination. For this study, near-full-length HIV-1 subtype C genomes from 270 individuals were evaluated for the presence of intrasubtype recombination. A sliding window schema (window, 2 kb; step, 385 bp) was used to partition the aligned sequences. The Shimodaira-Hasegawa test detected significant topological incongruence in 99.6% of the comparisons of the maximum-likelihood trees generated from each sequence partition, a result that could be explained by recombination. Using RECOMBINE, we detected significant levels of recombination using five random subsets of the sequences. With a set of 23 topologically consistent sequences used as references, bootscanning followed by the interactive informative site test defined recombination breakpoints. Using two multiple-comparison correction methods, 47% of the sequences showed significant evidence of recombination in both analyses. Estimated evolutionary rates were revised from 0.51%/year (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.39 to 0.53%) with all sequences to 0.46%/year (95% CI, 0.38 to 0.48%) with the putative recombinants removed. The timing of the subtype C epidemic origin was revised from 1961 (95% CI, 1947 to 1962) with all sequences to 1958 (95% CI, 1949 to 1960) with the putative recombinants removed. Thus, intrasubtype recombinants are common within the subtype C epidemic and these impact analyses of HIV-1 evolution.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) evokes a strong immune response, but the virus persists. Polymorphisms within known antigenic sites result in loss of immune recognition and can be positively selected. Amino acid variation outside known HLA class I restricted epitopes can also enable immune escape by interfering with the processing of the optimal peptide antigen. However, the lack of precise rules dictating epitope generation and the enormous genetic diversity of HIV make prediction of processing mutants very difficult. Polymorphism E169D in HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) is significantly associated with HLA-B*0702 in HIV-1-infected individuals. This polymorphism does not map within a known HLA-B*0702 epitope; instead, it is located five residues downstream of a HLA-B*0702-restricted epitope SPAIFQSSM (SM9). Here we investigate the association between E169D and HLA-B*0702 for immune escape via the SM9 epitope. We show that this single amino acid variation prevents the immune recognition of the flanked SM9 epitope by cytotoxic T cells through lack of generation of the epitope, which is a result of aberrant proteasomal cleavage. The E169D polymorphism also maps within and abrogates the recognition of an HLA-A*03-restricted RT epitope MR9. This study highlights the potential for using known statistical associations as indicators for viral escape but also the complexity involved in interpreting the immunological consequences of amino acid changes in HIV sequences.
The relationship between the function of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific CD8 T-cell responses and viral load has not been defined. In this study, we used a panel of major histocompatibility complex class I tetramers to examine responses to frequently targeted CD8 T-cell epitopes in a large cohort of antiretroviral-therapy-naïve HIV type 1 clade C virus-infected persons in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. In terms of effector functions of proliferation, cytokine production, and degranulation, only proliferation showed a significant correlation with viral load. This robust inverse relationship provides an important functional correlate of viral control relevant to both vaccine design and evaluation.
The role of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) escape in rapidly progressive infant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is undefined. The data presented here demonstrate that infant HIV-1-specific CTL can select for viral escape variants very early in life. These variants, furthermore, may be selected specifically in the infant, despite the same CTL specificity being present in the mother. Additionally, pediatric CTL activity may be compromised both by the transmission of maternal escape variants and by mother-to-child transmission of escape variants that originally arose in the father. The unique acquisition of these CTL escape forms may help to explain the severe nature of some pediatric HIV infections.