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Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2008 May;3(3):349-55. doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e3282fbaa81.

Phenotype and function of protective T cell immune responses in HIV.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.



Definition of T cell immune correlates in HIV infection remains a lofty goal towards our understanding of the HIV-specific immune response. This review will focus upon recent developments and controversies in our understanding of protective T cell responses against HIV.


It has become clear that multiple functions and phenotypic markers of T cells must be assessed to accurately characterize the complexity of CD4 and CD8 T cell responses. While evidence indicates that a hallmark of protective immune responses in HIV infection is the presence of 'polyfunctional' T cell responses, a disconnect remains between the function and phenotype of effective HIV-specific T cells. Moreover, there may be inherent differences in the ability of specific human leukocyte antigen class I families to promote CD8 T cell effector versus polyfunctional responses. It remains to be determined how polyfunctional responses arise in HIV infection, which functions are important for control, and whether surface phenotype markers provide an indication of protective capacity.


Polyfunctional and phenotypic assessment of T cell responses have clearly advanced our understanding of HIV specific immune responses. Critical questions remain, however, especially whether polyfunctional T cell responses control, or are controlled by, HIV replication.

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