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Blood. 2004 Mar 15;103(6):2238-47. Epub 2003 Nov 26.

Identification of circulating antigen-specific CD4+ T lymphocytes with a CCR5+, cytotoxic phenotype in an HIV-1 long-term nonprogressor and in CMV infection.

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Centre for Immunology, St Vincent's Hospital, and University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


Antigen-specific CD4+ effector T cells primarily provide help for B-cell antibody responses and CD8+ cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses. We have found an expanded population of HIV-1 p24-specific, T-cell receptor V beta 17+, CD4+ T lymphocytes, defined by in vitro proliferative and interferon-gamma responses to a 15-mer Gag peptide, in the peripheral blood of an individual with long-term nonprogressive HIV-1 infection. Ex vivo, these cells were CCR5+ and CCR7-, consistent with an effector/memory function. Surprisingly, these cells highly expressed several proteins characteristic of cytotoxic lymphocytes, including TIA-1 (T-cell intracellular antigen 1; GMP-17/NKG7), granzymes A and B, CD161 (NKRP-1), and CD244 (C1.7/2B4). Following in vitro peptide stimulation, these cells produced interleukin 2 (IL-2) and intracellular CD40L, suggesting possible helper function, in addition to induction of perforin and cytotoxicity. A subset of cytomegalovirus (CMV)-specific CD4+ T cells in healthy adults similarly expressed these CTL markers and CCR5, ex vivo. Furthermore, this distinct subset of CD4+ T cells was significantly elevated in healthy CMV-seropositive adults, compared with CMV-seronegative individuals. These results suggest that CCR5+ CD4+ CTL may be a major effector mechanism of the immune response to viral infections in humans. Moreover, expression of CCR5 may render them particularly susceptible to cytopathic effects during progressive HIV-1 infection.

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