Differences in HIV-specific T cell responses between HIV-exposed and -unexposed HIV-seronegative individuals.
Ritchie AJ., Campion SL., Kopycinski J., Moodie Z., Wang ZM., Pandya K., Moore S., Liu MKP., Brackenridge S., Kuldanek K., Legg K., Cohen MS., Delwart EL., Haynes BF., Fidler S., McMichael AJ., Goonetilleke N.
HIV-1-specific T lymphocyte responses in individuals exposed to HIV-1 but who remain persistently seronegative (HESNs) have been reported in some but not all previous studies. This study was designed to resolve unequivocally the question of whether HESNs make HIV-1-specific T cell responses. We performed a blind investigation to measure HIV-1-specific T cell responses in both HIV-1-serodiscordant couples and HIV-1-unexposed seronegative controls (HUSNs). We found low-frequency HIV-1-specific T cells in both HESNs and HUSNs but show that the response rates were higher over time in the former (P = 0.01). Furthermore, the magnitudes of the HIV-1-specific T cell responses were significantly higher among responding HESNs than among HUSNs over time (P = 0.002). In both groups, responses were mediated by CD4 T cells. The responses were mapped to single peptides, which often corresponded to epitopes restricted by multiple HLA-DR types that have previously been detected in HIV-1-infected patients. HIV-1-specific T cell responses in HUSNs and some HESNs likely represent cross-reactivity to self or foreign non-HIV-1 antigens. The significantly greater T cell responses in HESNs, including in two who were homozygous for CCR5Δ32, demonstrates that HIV-1-specific T cell responses can be induced or augmented by exposure to HIV-1 without infection.