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1.  HLA-A*7401–Mediated Control of HIV Viremia Is Independent of Its Linkage Disequilibrium with HLA-B*5703 
The potential contribution of HLA-A alleles to viremic control in chronic HIV type 1 (HIV-1) infection has been relatively understudied compared with HLA-B. In these studies, we show that HLA-A*7401 is associated with favorable viremic control in extended southern African cohorts of >2100 C-clade–infected subjects. We present evidence that HLA-A*7401 operates an effect that is independent of HLA-B*5703, with which it is in linkage disequilibrium in some populations, to mediate lowered viremia. We describe a novel statistical approach to detecting additive effects between class I alleles in control of HIV-1 disease, highlighting improved viremic control in subjects with HLA-A*7401 combined with HLA-B*57. In common with HLA-B alleles that are associated with effective control of viremia, HLA-A*7401 presents highly targeted epitopes in several proteins, including Gag, Pol, Rev, and Nef, of which the Gag epitopes appear immunodominant. We identify eight novel putative HLA-A*7401–restricted epitopes, of which three have been defined to the optimal epitope. In common with HLA-B alleles linked with slow progression, viremic control through an HLA-A*7401–restricted response appears to be associated with the selection of escape mutants within Gag epitopes that reduce viral replicative capacity. These studies highlight the potentially important contribution of an HLA-A allele to immune control of HIV infection, which may have been concealed by a stronger effect mediated by an HLA-B allele with which it is in linkage disequilibrium. In addition, these studies identify a factor contributing to different HIV disease outcomes in individuals expressing HLA-B*5703.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1003711
PMCID: PMC3738002  PMID: 21498667
2.  Preservation HIV-1-specific IFNγ+ CD4+ T cell responses in breakthrough infections following exposure to Tenofovir Gel in the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial 
The CAPRISA004 trial demonstrated reduction of sexual HIV-1 acquisition in women using a vaginal microbicide containing tenofovir. A better understanding of the consequences of antiretroviral-containing microbicides for immune responses in individuals with intercurrent HIV-1 infection is needed for future trials combining the use of microbicides with HIV-1 vaccines. Investigation of immune responses in women who acquired HIV-1 whilst using tenofovir gel showed significantly higher (p=0.01) Gag-specific IFNγ+ CD4+ T-cell responses. The use of tenofovir containing gel around the time of infection can modulate HIV-1 immunity, and these immunological changes need to be considered in future trials combining vaccines and microbicides.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31824f53a9
PMCID: PMC3381429  PMID: 22362152
HIV-1; vaginal microbicide; tenofovir; HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cell help
3.  Short Communication: CD8+ T Cell Polyfunctionality Profiles in Progressive and Nonprogressive Pediatric HIV Type 1 Infection 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(9):1005-1012.
Abstract
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.
doi:10.1089/aid.2010.0227
PMCID: PMC3332389  PMID: 21288139
4.  Influence of Gag-Protease-Mediated Replication Capacity on Disease Progression in Individuals Recently Infected with HIV-1 Subtype C▿ 
Journal of Virology  2011;85(8):3996-4006.
HLA class I-mediated selection of immune escape mutations in functionally important Gag epitopes may partly explain slower disease progression in HIV-1-infected individuals with protective HLA alleles. To investigate the impact of Gag function on disease progression, the replication capacities of viruses encoding Gag-protease from 60 individuals in early HIV-1 subtype C infection were assayed in an HIV-1-inducible green fluorescent protein reporter cell line and were correlated with subsequent disease progression. Replication capacities did not correlate with viral load set points (P = 0.37) but were significantly lower in individuals with below-median viral load set points (P = 0.03), and there was a trend of correlation between lower replication capacities and lower rates of CD4 decline (P = 0.09). Overall, the proportion of host HLA-specific Gag polymorphisms in or adjacent to epitopes was negatively associated with replication capacities (P = 0.04), but host HLA-B-specific polymorphisms were associated with higher viral load set points (P = 0.01). Further, polymorphisms associated with host-specific protective HLA alleles were linked with higher viral load set points (P = 0.03). These data suggest that transmission or early HLA-driven selection of Gag polymorphisms results in reduced early cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses and higher viral load set points. In support of the former, 46% of individuals with nonprotective alleles harbored a Gag polymorphism exclusively associated with a protective HLA allele, indicating a high rate of their transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, HIV disease progression is likely to be affected by the ability to mount effective Gag CTL responses as well as the replication capacity of the transmitted virus.
doi:10.1128/JVI.02520-10
PMCID: PMC3126116  PMID: 21289112
5.  A Molecular Assay for Sensitive Detection of Pathogen-Specific T-Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e20606.
Here we describe the development and validation of a highly sensitive assay of antigen-specific IFN-γ production using real time quantitative PCR (qPCR) for two reporters - monokine-induced by IFN-γ (MIG) and the IFN-γ inducible protein-10 (IP10). We developed and validated the assay and applied it to the detection of CMV, HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) specific responses, in a cohort of HIV co-infected patients. We compared the sensitivity of this assay to that of the ex vivo RD1 (ESAT-6 and CFP-10)-specific IFN-γ Elispot assay. We observed a clear quantitative correlation between the two assays (P<0.001). Our assay proved to be a sensitive assay for the detection of MTB-specific T cells, could be performed on whole blood samples of fingerprick (50 uL) volumes, and was not affected by HIV-mediated immunosuppression. This assay platform is potentially of utility in diagnosis of infection in this and other clinical settings.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020606
PMCID: PMC3154901  PMID: 21853018
6.  Immunodominant HIV-1-specific HLA-B- and HLA-C-restricted CD8+ T cells do not differ in polyfunctionality 
Virology  2010;405(2-3):483-491.
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.
doi:10.1016/j.virol.2010.06.002
PMCID: PMC2954365  PMID: 20638093
HLA-B*57/5801; HLA-C; HIV-1 chronic infection; CD8+ T cells; Polyfunctionality
7.  Impact of HLA in Mother and Child on Disease Progression of Pediatric Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Infection▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(19):10234-10244.
A broad Gag-specific CD8+ T-cell response is associated with effective control of adult human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The association of certain HLA class I molecules, such as HLA-B*57, -B*5801, and -B*8101, with immune control is linked to mutations within Gag epitopes presented by these alleles that allow HIV to evade the immune response but that also reduce viral replicative capacity. Transmission of such viruses containing mutations within Gag epitopes results in lower viral loads in adult recipients. In this study of pediatric infection, we tested the hypothesis that children may tend to progress relatively slowly if either they themselves possess one of the protective HLA-B alleles or the mother possesses one of these alleles, thereby transmitting a low-fitness virus to the child. We analyzed HLA type, CD8+ T-cell responses, and viral sequence changes for 61 mother-child pairs from Durban, South Africa, who were monitored from birth. Slow progression was significantly associated with the mother or child possessing one of the protective HLA-B alleles, and more significantly so when the protective allele was not shared by mother and child (P = 0.007). Slow progressors tended to make CD8+ T-cell responses to Gag epitopes presented by the protective HLA-B alleles, in contrast to progressors expressing the same alleles (P = 0.07; Fisher's exact test). Mothers expressing the protective alleles were significantly more likely to transmit escape variants within the Gag epitopes presented by those alleles than mothers not expressing those alleles (75% versus 21%; P = 0.001). Reversion of transmitted escape mutations was observed in all slow-progressing children whose mothers possessed protective HLA-B alleles. These data show that HLA class I alleles influence disease progression in pediatric as well as adult infection, both as a result of the CD8+ T-cell responses generated in the child and through the transmission of low-fitness viruses by the mother.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00921-09
PMCID: PMC2748050  PMID: 19605475
8.  Immunodominant HIV-1 Cd4+ T Cell Epitopes in Chronic Untreated Clade C HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5013.
Background
A dominance of Gag-specific CD8+ T cell responses is significantly associated with a lower viral load in individuals with chronic, untreated clade C human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. This association has not been investigated in terms of Gag-specific CD4+ T cell responses, nor have clade C HIV-1–specific CD4+ T cell epitopes, likely a vital component of an effective global HIV-1 vaccine, been identified.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Intracellular cytokine staining was conducted on 373 subjects with chronic, untreated clade C infection to assess interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) responses by CD4+ T cells to pooled Gag peptides and to determine their association with viral load and CD4 count. Gag-specific IFN-γ–producing CD4+ T cell responses were detected in 261/373 (70%) subjects, with the Gag responders having a significantly lower viral load and higher CD4 count than those with no detectable Gag response (p<0.0001 for both parameters). To identify individual peptides targeted by HIV-1–specific CD4+ T cells, separate ELISPOT screening was conducted on CD8-depleted PBMCs from 32 chronically infected untreated subjects, using pools of overlapping peptides that spanned the entire HIV-1 clade C consensus sequence, and reconfirmed by flow cytometry to be CD4+ mediated. The ELISPOT screening identified 33 CD4+ peptides targeted by 18/32 patients (56%), with 27 of the 33 peptides located in the Gag region. Although the breadth of the CD4+ responses correlated inversely with viral load (p = 0.015), the magnitude of the response was not significantly associated with viral load.
Conclusions/Significance
These data indicate that in chronic untreated clade C HIV-1 infection, IFN-γ–secreting Gag-specific CD4+ T cell responses are immunodominant, directed at multiple distinct epitopes, and associated with viral control.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005013
PMCID: PMC2661367  PMID: 19352428
9.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Specific CD8+ T-Cell Activity Is Detectable from Birth in the Majority of In Utero-Infected Infants▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(23):12775-12784.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected infants in sub-Saharan Africa typically progress to AIDS or death by 2 years of life in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. This rapid progression to HIV disease has been related to immaturity of the adaptive immune response in infants. We screened 740 infants born to HIV-infected mothers and tracked development and specificity of HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in 63 HIV-infected infants identified using gamma interferon enzyme-linked immunospot assays and intracellular cytokine staining. Forty-four in utero-infected and 19 intrapartum-infected infants were compared to 45 chronically infected children >2 years of age. Seventy percent (14 of 20) in utero-infected infants tested within the first week of life demonstrated HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Gag, Pol, and Nef were the principally targeted regions in chronic pediatric infection. However, Env dominated the overall response in one-third (12/36) of the acutely infected infants, compared to only 2/45 (4%) of chronically infected children (P = 0.00083). Gag-specific CD4+ T-cell responses were minimal to undetectable in the first 6 months of pediatric infection. These data indicate that failure to control HIV replication in in utero-infected infants is not due to an inability to induce responses but instead suggest secondary failure of adaptive immunity in containing this infection. Moreover, the detection of virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in the first days of life in most in utero-infected infants is encouraging for HIV vaccine interventions in infants.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00624-07
PMCID: PMC2169079  PMID: 17881456

Results 1-9 (9)