Correlates of T-cell-mediated viral control and phenotype of CD8(+) T cells in HIV-2, a naturally contained human retroviral infection.
de Silva TI., Peng Y., Leligdowicz A., Zaidi I., Li L., Griffin H., Blais M-E., Vincent T., Saraiva M., Yindom L-M., van Tienen C., Easterbrook P., Jaye A., Whittle H., Dong T., Rowland-Jones SL.
While a significant proportion of HIV-2-infected individuals are asymptomatic and maintain undetectable viral loads (controllers), 15% to 20% progress to AIDS and are predicted by detectable viremia. Identifying immune correlates that distinguish these 2 groups should provide insights into how a potentially pathogenic retrovirus can be naturally controlled. We performed a detailed study of HIV-2-specific cellular responses in a unique community cohort in Guinea-Bissau followed for over 2 decades. T-cell responses were compared between controllers (n = 33) and viremic subjects (n = 27) using overlapping peptides, major histocompatibility complex class I tetramers, and multiparameter flow cytometry. HIV-2 viral control was significantly associated with a high-magnitude, polyfunctional Gag-specific CD8(+) T-cell response but not with greater perforin upregulation. This potentially protective HIV-2-specific response is surprisingly narrow. HIV-2 Gag-specific CD8(+) T cells are at an earlier stage of differentiation than cytomegalovirus-specific CD8(+) T-cells, do not contain high levels of cytolytic markers, and exhibit low levels of activation and proliferation, representing distinct properties from CD8(+) T cells associated with HIV-1 control. These data reveal the potential T-cell correlates of HIV-2 control and the detailed phenotype of virus-specific CD8(+) T cells in a naturally contained retroviral infection.