The important role of the CD8+ T-cell response on HIV control is well established. Moreover, the acute phase of infection represents a proper scenario to delineate the antiviral cellular functions that best correlate with control. Here, multiple functional aspects (specificity, ex vivo viral inhibitory activity [VIA] and polyfunctionality) of the HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell subset arising early after infection, and their association with disease progression markers, were examined. Blood samples from 44 subjects recruited within 6 months from infection (primary HIV infection [PHI] group), 16 chronically infected subjects, 11 elite controllers (EC), and 10 healthy donors were obtained. Results indicated that, although Nef dominated the anti-HIV response during acute/early infection, a higher proportion of early anti-Gag T cells correlated with delayed progression. Polyfunctional HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were detected at early time points but did not associate with virus control. Conversely, higher CD4+ T-cell set points were observed in PHI subjects with higher HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell VIA at baseline. Importantly, VIA levels correlated with the magnitude of the anti-Gag cellular response. The advantage of Gag-specific cells may result from their enhanced ability to mediate lysis of infected cells (evidenced by a higher capacity to degranulate and to mediate VIA) and to simultaneously produce IFN-γ. Finally, Gag immunodominance was associated with elevated plasma levels of interleukin 2 (IL-2) and macrophage inflammatory protein 1β (MIP-1β). All together, this study underscores the importance of CD8+ T-cell specificity in the improved control of disease progression, which was related to the capacity of Gag-specific cells to mediate both lytic and nonlytic antiviral mechanisms at early time points postinfection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science