Product(s) used in this publication: Specialty Peptides
The molecular pattern of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in Argentina provides an appropriate scenario to study cellular immune responses in patients with non-clade B infection. We aimed to map T-cell responses in patients infected with BF recombinant variants and compare them with those of clade B patients. Sixteen recently infected patients were enrolled and grouped by viral subtype. Nef-specific responses were evaluated with a peptide matrix-based gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay using B and BF overlapping peptides. Cross-clade and clade-specific responses were found. A correlation between B versus BF Nef-specific responses was identified. Detailed analysis at the single-peptide level revealed that BF patients show a narrower response but greater magnitude. Nef immunodominant responses agreed with previous publications, although the B loop was targeted at an unexpectedly high frequency. The putative HLA allele(s) restricting each positive response was determined. Single-peptide level screening with two different peptide sets uncovered discordant responses (mostly caused by peptide offsetting) and allowed detection of increased breadth. Positive responses identified by ELISPOT assay were further studied by intracellular cytokine staining. These were almost exclusively mediated by CD8 T cells. Characterization of concordant responses revealed that cells show distinct functional profiles, depending on the peptide presented. Last, quality (in terms of polyfunctionality) of T cells was associated with better viral replication containment. Overall, interclade differences in the frequency of epitopes recognized, structural domains targeted, and magnitude of responses were identified. Screening T-cell responses with multiple sets increased sensitivity. Further support for the notion of polyfunctional CD8(+) T-cell requirement to better control viral replication is also provided.