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Memory CD4 + T-Cells Expressing HLA-DR Contribute to HIV Persistence During Prolonged Antiretroviral Therapy.

  • Author(s): Lee, Eunok;
  • Bacchetti, Peter;
  • Milush, Jeffery;
  • Shao, Wei;
  • Boritz, Eli;
  • Douek, Daniel;
  • Fromentin, Remi;
  • Liegler, Teri;
  • Hoh, Rebecca;
  • Deeks, Steve G;
  • Hecht, Frederick M;
  • Chomont, Nicolas;
  • Palmer, Sarah
  • et al.

To date, most assays for measuring the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) reservoir do not include memory CD4+ T-cells expressing the activation marker, human leukocyte antigen-antigen D related (HLA-DR). However, little is known concerning the role these cells play in maintaining persistent HIV-1 during effective antiretroviral therapy (ART). To address this issue, we examined, cellular activation/exhaustion markers (Ki67, CCR5, PD-1, Lag-3 and Tim-3) and viral gag-pol DNA sequences within HLA-DR- and HLA-DR+ memory CD4+ T-cell subsets longitudinally from the peripheral blood of six participants over 3 to ≥15 years of effective therapy. HLA-DR expression was readily detected during the study period in all participants. The average expression levels of CCR5, PD-1 and Tim-3 were higher on the HLA-DR+ T-cell subset whereas the average of LAG-3 expression was higher on their HLA-DR- counterpart. The proportion of HIV-infected cells increased within the HLA-DR+ subset by an average of 18% per year of ART whereas the frequency of infected HLA-DR- T-cells slightly decreased over time (5% per year). We observed that 20-33% of HIV-DNA sequences from the early time points were genetically identical to viral sequences from the last time point within the same cell subset during ART. This indicates that a fraction of proviruses persists within HLA-DR+ and HLA-DR- T-cell subsets during prolonged ART. Our HIV-DNA sequence analyses also revealed that cells transitioned between the HLA-DR+ and HLA-DR- phenotypes. The Ki67 expression, a marker for cellular proliferation, and the combined markers of Ki67/PD-1 averaged 19-fold and 22-fold higher on the HLA-DR+ T-cell subset compared to their HLA-DR- counterpart. Moreover, cellular proliferation, as reflected by the proportion of genetically identical HIV-DNA sequences, increased within both T-cell subsets over the study period; however, this increase was greater within the HLA-DR+ T-cells. Our research revealed that cellular transition and proliferation contribute to the persistence of HIV in HLA-DR+ and HLA-DR- T-cell subsets during prolonged therapy. As such, the HIV reservoir expands during effective ART when both the HLA-DR+ and HLA-DR- cell subsets are included, and therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing the HIV-1 reservoir should target HLA-DR+ and HLA-DR- T-cells.

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