A parameter for IL-10 and TGF-β mediated regulation of HIV-1 specific T cell activation provides novel information and relates to progression markers.PLoS One. 2014; 9(1):e85604.Plos
HIV replication is only partially controlled by HIV-specific activated effector T cells in chronic HIV infection and strategies are warranted to improve their efficacy. Chronic T cell activation is generally accompanied by regulation of antigen-specific T cell responses which may impair an effective control of chronic infections. The impact of HIV-induced T cell regulation on individual patients' disease progression is largely unknown, since classical T cell activation assays reflect net activation with regulation as unknown contributing factor. We here explore a quantitative parameter for antigen-induced cytokine-mediated regulation (R(AC) of HIV-specific effector T cell activation by functional antibody-blockade of IL-10 and transforming growth factor-β. HIV Env- and Gag-specific T cell activation and R(AC) were estimated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 30 treatment-naïve asymptomatic HIV-infected progressors (CD4 count 472/µl, HIV RNA 37500 copies/ml) stimulated with overlapping peptide panels for 6 days. R(AC) was estimated from differences in T cell activation between normal and blocked cultures, and related to annual CD4 loss, immune activation (CD38) and microbial translocation (plasma lipopolysaccharides). R(AC) was heterogeneously distributed between individual patients and the two HIV antigens. Notably, RAC did not correlate to corresponding classical activation. Env R(AC) correlated with CD38 and CD4 loss rates (r> = 0.37, p = <0.046) whereas classical Gag activation tended to correlate with HIV RNA (r = -0.35, p = 0.06). 14 patients (47%) with low R(AC)'s to both Env and Gag had higher CD8 counts (p = 0.014) and trends towards lower annual CD4 loss (p = 0.056) and later start with antiretroviral treatment (p = 0.07) than the others. In contrast, patients with high RAC to both Env and Gag (n = 8) had higher annual CD4 loss (p = 0.034) and lower CD8 counts (p = 0.014). R(AC) to Env and Gag was not predicted by classical activation parameters and may thus provide additional information on HIV-specific immunity. R(AC) and other assessments of regulation deserve further in-depth exploration.