Impairment of CD1d-restricted natural killer T cells in chronic HIV type 1 clade C infection.
Mureithi MW., Cohen K., Moodley R., Poole D., Mncube Z., Kasmar A., Moody DB., Goulder PJR., Walker BD., Altfeld M., Ndung'u T.
Recent studies suggest that natural killer T (NKT) cells play a role in early antiviral pathogenesis and are rapidly depleted in chronic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) clade B infection. We aimed to characterize the phenotypic and functional characteristics of NKT cells in HIV-1 clade C-infected Africans at different stages of HIV-1 disease. NKT cell frequencies, subsets, and ex vivo effector functions were assessed using multiparametric flow cytometry in a cross-sectional analysis of cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a cohort of 53 HIV-1 clade C chronically infected South African adults with CD4 T cell counts ranging from 94 to 839 cells/μl. We observed a significant decline of NKT cell numbers in advanced HIV-1 disease as well as activation and functional impairment of NKT cells in individuals with low CD4 T cell counts. The loss of NKT cells was largely driven by a reduction in the CD4(+) and CD4(-)CD8(-) NKT cell subsets in advanced disease. These findings demonstrate significant impairment of the NKT cell compartment in progressive HIV-1 clade C disease that might play an important role in the modulation of immune function in HIV-1 infection.