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J Clin Invest. 2002 Nov;110(9):1339-47.

The functional CD8 T cell response to HIV becomes type-specific in progressive disease.

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Center for Blood Research and Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


High levels of HIV-specific CD8 T cells are demonstrable throughout HIV disease using laboratory assays that measure responses to consensus epitopes. In acute infection, the dynamics of the antiviral CD8 T cell response correlate well with the decline in viremia. However in chronic infection, although responses are detected against a broader spectrum of epitopes, virus-specific CD8 T cells are apparently unable to control viral replication. To investigate whether CD8 T cells responding to consensus epitopes may have lost their in vivo relevance in the chronic phase because of viral evolution driven by immune pressure, we compared the CD8 T cell response to CD4 T cell targets infected with either lab-adapted HIV(IIIB) or the patient's own virus. The magnitude of the IFN-gamma response declined with disease progression, especially to autologous virus. T cell receptor (TCR) clonotypes of HIV(IIIB) and autologous virus-responding cells were determined by sequencing TCR beta chain variable (TCRBV) genes. In two of three asymptomatic donors, the dominant clonotypes overlapped, whereas in five symptomatic patients, the TCR clonotypes responding to HIV(IIIB) virus were completely different from those responding to autologous virus. Moreover, in cytolytic assays, T cell lines derived from IFN-gamma(+) cells responding to lab-adapted or autologous virus cross-recognized target cells infected with either virus in asymptomatic subjects with shared TCR clonotypes but not in progressors with differing clonotypes. Therefore, in advanced-stage patients, viral-specific CD8 T cells recognizing consensus epitopes persist from an earlier response but no longer effectively recognize autologous virus.

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