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The HIV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response is temporally associated with the decline in viremia during primary HIV-1 infection, but definitive evidence that it is of importance in virus containment has been lacking. Here we show that in a patient whose early CTL response was focused on a highly immunodominant epitope in gp 160, there was rapid elimination of the transmitted virus strain and selection for a virus population bearing amino acid changes at a single residue within this epitope, which conferred escape from recognition by epitope-specific CTL. The magnitude (> 100-fold), kinetics (30-72 days from onset of symptoms) and genetic pathways of virus escape from CTL pressure were comparable to virus escape from antiretroviral therapy, indicating the biological significance of the CTL response in vivo. One aim of HIV-1 vaccines should thus be to elicit strong CTL responses against multiple codominant viral epitopes.


Journal article


Nat Med

Publication Date





205 - 211


Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, HIV Envelope Protein gp160, HIV-1, Humans, Immunodominant Epitopes, Oligonucleotide Probes, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Viremia