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Blood. 2011 May 12;117(19):5112-22. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-12-321588. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Epithelial adhesion molecules can inhibit HIV-1-specific CD8⁺ T-cell functions.

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  • 1Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Under persistent antigenic stimulation, virus-specific CD8⁺ T cells become increasingly dysfunctional and up-regulate several inhibitory molecules such as killer lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1). Here, we demonstrate that HIV-1 antigen-specific T cells from subjects with chronic-progressive HIV-1 infection have significantly elevated KLRG1 expression (P < .001); show abnormal distribution of E-cadherin, the natural ligand of KLRG1, in the intestinal mucosa; and have elevated levels of systemic soluble E-cadherin (sE-cadherin) that significantly correlate with HIV-1 viral load (R = 0.7, P = .004). We furthermore demonstrate that in the presence of sE-cadherin, KLRG1(hi) HIV-1-specific CD8⁺ T cells are impaired in their ability to respond by cytokine secretion on antigenic stimulation (P = .002) and to inhibit viral replication (P = .03) in vitro. Thus, these data suggest a critical mechanism by which the disruption of the intestinal epithelium associated with HIV-1 leads to increased systemic levels of sE-cadherin, which inhibits the effector functions of KLRG1(hi)-expressing HIV-1-specific CD8⁺ T cells systemically.

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