Galectin-9 is rapidly released during acute HIV-1 infection and remains sustained at high levels despite viral suppression even in elite controllers.
Tandon R., Chew GM., Byron MM., Borrow P., Niki T., Hirashima M., Barbour JD., Norris PJ., Lanteri MC., Martin JN., Deeks SG., Ndhlovu LC.
Galectin-9 (Gal-9) is a β-galactosidase-binding lectin that promotes apoptosis, tissue inflammation, and T cell immune exhaustion, and alters HIV infection in part through engagement with the T cell immunoglobulin mucin domain-3 (Tim-3) receptor and protein disulfide isomerases (PDI). Gal-9 was initially thought to be an eosinophil attractant, but is now known to mediate multiple complex signaling events that affect T cells in both an immunosuppressive and inflammatory manner. To understand the kinetics of circulating Gal-9 levels during HIV infection we measured Gal-9 in plasma during HIV acquisition, in subjects with chronic HIV infection with differing virus control, and in uninfected individuals. During acute HIV infection, circulating Gal-9 was detected as early as 5 days after quantifiable HIV RNA and tracked plasma levels of interleukin (IL)-10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and IL-1β. In chronic HIV infection, Gal-9 levels positively correlated with plasma HIV RNA levels (r=0.29; p=0.023), and remained significantly elevated during suppressive antiretroviral therapy (median: 225.3 pg/ml) and in elite controllers (263.3 pg/ml) compared to age-matched HIV-uninfected controls (54 pg/ml). Our findings identify Gal-9 as a novel component of the first wave of the cytokine storm in acute HIV infection that is sustained at elevated levels in virally suppressed subjects and suggest that Gal-9:Tim-3 crosstalk remains active in elite controllers and antiretroviral (ARV)-suppressed subjects, potentially contributing to ongoing inflammation and persistent T cell dysfunction.