Melhem NM, Smith KN, Huang XL, Colleton BA, Jiang W, Mailliard RB, Mullins JI, Rinaldo CR (2014). The impact of viral evolution and frequency of variant epitopes on primary and memory human immunodeficiency virus type 1-specific CD8⁺ T cell responses. Virology, 450-451, 34-48. (pubmed) (doi)
It is unclear if HIV-1 variants lose the ability to prime naïve CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) during progressive, untreated infection. We conducted a comprehensive longitudinal analysis of viral evolution and its impact on primary and memory CD8(+) T cell responses pre-seroconversion (SC), post-SC, and during combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Memory T cell responses targeting autologous virus variants reached a nadir by 8 years post-SC with development of AIDS, followed by a transient enhancement of anti-HIV-1 CTL responses upon initiation of cART. We show broad and high magnitude primary T cell responses to late variants in pre-SC T cells, comparable to primary anti-HIV-1 responses induced in T cells from uninfected persons. Despite evolutionary changes, CD8(+) T cells could still be primed to HIV-1 variants. Hence, vaccination against late, mutated epitopes could be successful in enhancing primary reactivity of T cells for control of the residual reservoir of HIV-1 during cART.