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J Exp Med. 1995 Apr 1;181(4):1365-72.

Kinetics of Gag-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses during the clinical course of HIV-1 infection: a longitudinal analysis of rapid progressors and long-term asymptomatics.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Viro-Immunology, Central Laboratory of The Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, Amsterdam.


To gain more insight into the role of HIV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in the pathogenesis of AIDS, we investigated temporal relations between HIV-1 Gag-specific precursor CTL (CTLp), HIV-1 viral load, CD4+ T cell counts, and T cell function. Six HIV-1-infected subjects, who were asymptomatic for more than 8 yr with CD4+ counts > 500 cells/mm3, were compared with six subjects who progressed to AIDS within 5 yr after HIV-1 seroconversion. In the long-term asymptomatics, persistent HIV-1 Gag-specific CTL responses and very low numbers of HIV-1-infected CD4+ T cells coincided with normal and stable CD4+ counts and preserved CD3 mAb-induced T cell reactivity for more than 8 yr. In five out of six rapid progressors Gag-specific CTLp were also detected. However, early in infection the number of circulating HIV-1-infected CD4+ T cells increased despite strong and mounting Gag-specific CTL responses. During subsequent clinical progression to AIDS, loss of Gag-specific CTLp coincided with precipitating CD4+ counts and severe deterioration of T cell function. The possible relationships of HIV-1 Gag-specific CTLp to disease progression are discussed.

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