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Persistent Expansion And Th1-Like Skewing of HIV-Specific Circulating T Follicular Helper Cells During Antiretroviral Therapy

Julia Niessl Wu et.al., EBioMedicine (2020) - PMID: 32268275

Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Untreated HIV infection leads to alterations in HIV-specific CD4+ T cells including increased expression of co-inhibitory receptors (IRs) and skewing toward a T follicular helper cell (Tfh) signature. However, which changes are maintained after suppression of viral replication with antiretroviral therapy (ART) is poorly known.

METHODS:

We analyzed blood CD4+ T cells specific to HIV and comparative viral antigens in ART-treated people using a cytokine-independent activation-induced marker assay alone or in combination with functional readouts.

FINDINGS:

In intra-individual comparisons, HIV-specific CD4+ T cells were characterized by a larger fraction of circulating Tfh (cTfh) cells than CMV- and HBV-specific cells and preferentially expressed multiple IRs and showed elevated production of the Tfh cytokines CXCL13 and IL-21. In addition, HIV-specific cTfh exhibited a predominant Th1-like phenotype and function when compared to cTfh of other specificities, contrasting with a reduction in Th1-functions in HIV-specific non-cTfh. Using longitudinal samples, we demonstrate that this distinct HIV-specific cTfh profile was induced during chronic untreated HIV infection, persisted on ART and correlated with the translation-competent HIV reservoir but not with the total HIV DNA reservoir.

INTERPRETATION:

Expansion and altered features of HIV-specific cTfh cells are maintained during ART and may be driven by persistent HIV antigen expression.

FUNDING:

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the FRQS AIDS and Infectious Diseases Network.

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