HIV Controllers Exhibit Enhanced Frequencies of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Tetramer(+) Gag-Specific CD4(+) T Cells in Chronic Clade C HIV-1 Infection.

TitleHIV Controllers Exhibit Enhanced Frequencies of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Tetramer(+) Gag-Specific CD4(+) T Cells in Chronic Clade C HIV-1 Infection.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLaher F, Ranasinghe S, Porichis F, Mewalal N, Pretorius K, Ismail N, Buus S, Stryhn A, Carrington M, Walker BD, Ndung'u T, Ndhlovu ZM
JournalJ Virol
Volume91
Issue7
Date Published2017 Apr 01
ISSN1098-5514
Abstract

Immune control of viral infections is heavily dependent on helper CD4(+) T cell function. However, the understanding of the contribution of HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses to immune protection against HIV-1, particularly in clade C infection, remains incomplete. Recently, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II tetramers have emerged as a powerful tool for interrogating antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells without relying on effector functions. Here, we defined the MHC class II alleles for immunodominant Gag CD4(+) T cell epitopes in clade C virus infection, constructed MHC class II tetramers, and then used these to define the magnitude, function, and relation to the viral load of HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in a cohort of untreated HIV clade C-infected persons. We observed significantly higher frequencies of MHC class II tetramer-positive CD4(+) T cells in HIV controllers than progressors (P = 0.0001), and these expanded Gag-specific CD4(+) T cells in HIV controllers showed higher levels of expression of the cytolytic proteins granzymes A and B. Importantly, targeting of the immunodominant Gag41 peptide in the context of HLA class II DRB1*1101 was associated with HIV control (r = -0.5, P = 0.02). These data identify an association between HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell targeting of immunodominant Gag epitopes and immune control, particularly the contribution of a single class II MHC-peptide complex to the immune response against HIV-1 infection. Furthermore, these results highlight the advantage of the use of class II tetramers in evaluating HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in natural infections.IMPORTANCE Increasing evidence suggests that virus-specific CD4(+) T cells contribute to the immune-mediated control of clade B HIV-1 infection, yet there remains a relative paucity of data regarding the role of HIV-specific CD4(+) T cells in shaping adaptive immune responses in individuals infected with clade C, which is responsible for the majority of HIV infections worldwide. Understanding the contribution of HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses in clade C infection is particularly important for developing vaccines that would be efficacious in sub-Saharan Africa, where clade C infection is dominant. Here, we employed MHC class II tetramers designed to immunodominant Gag epitopes and used them to characterize CD4(+) T cell responses in HIV-1 clade C infection. Our results demonstrate an association between the frequency of HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses targeting an immunodominant DRB1*11-Gag41 complex and HIV control, highlighting the important contribution of a single class II MHC-peptide complex to the immune response against HIV-1 infections.

DOI10.1128/JVI.02477-16
Alternate JournalJ. Virol.
PubMed ID28077659
PubMed Central IDPMC5355603
Grant ListHHSN261200800001C / RC / CCR NIH HHS / United States
HHSN261200800001E / CA / NCI NIH HHS / United States
R37 AI067073 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States
UM1 AI100663 / AI / NIAID NIH HHS / United States
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