Approximately 5% of people with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection remain free of disease for 10 or more years. These long-term nonprogressors (LTNPs) exhibit lower viral loads and stable CD4+ lymphocyte counts. The immunologic basis for this disease-free condition is not known. Because cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) constitute a major immune defense mechanism for sustained recovery from viral infections, we analyzed HIV-specific CTL responses in three asymptomatic LTNPs. We observed the presence of HIV-1 envelope-specific CTL responses mediated by HLA class I C-restricted CD8+ cells in these individuals. Using autologous target cells and a panel of HLA-matching and -mismatching B-cell lines as targets, we determined that HLA-Cw7 is the restricting element for the observed CTL activity. Additionally, we identified three peptides, one previously not reported, from conserved regions in the envelope protein as CTL epitopes. We previously reported these peptides to be efficient in inducing HIV-specific cellular immune responses in murine and nonhuman primate models. Our results support the role of the HLA-C locus in generating CTL responses and constitute the first report of an HLA-Cw7-restricted HIV-1 envelope-specific CTL response in HIV+ LTNPs, which may be important in the control of HIV replication in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine