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PLoS Pathog. 2011 Feb 10;7(2):e1001273. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001273.

Relationship between functional profile of HIV-1 specific CD8 T cells and epitope variability with the selection of escape mutants in acute HIV-1 infection.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America. gflmp@duke.edu

Abstract

In the present study, we analyzed the functional profile of CD8+ T-cell responses directed against autologous transmitted/founder HIV-1 isolates during acute and early infection, and examined whether multifunctionality is required for selection of virus escape mutations. Seven anti-retroviral therapy-naïve subjects were studied in detail between 1 and 87 weeks following onset of symptoms of acute HIV-1 infection. Synthetic peptides representing the autologous transmitted/founder HIV-1 sequences were used in multiparameter flow cytometry assays to determine the functionality of HIV-1-specific CD8+ T memory cells. In all seven patients, the earliest T cell responses were predominantly oligofunctional, although the relative contribution of multifunctional cell responses increased significantly with time from infection. Interestingly, only the magnitude of the total and not of the poly-functional T-cell responses was significantly associated with the selection of escape mutants. However, the high contribution of MIP-1β-producing CD8+ T-cells to the total response suggests that mechanisms not limited to cytotoxicity could be exerting immune pressure during acute infection. Lastly, we show that epitope entropy, reflecting the capacity of the epitope to tolerate mutational change and defined as the diversity of epitope sequences at the population level, was also correlated with rate of emergence of escape mutants.

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