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Blood. 2009 Jun 18;113(25):6351-60. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-02-206557. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Antigen sensitivity is a major determinant of CD8+ T-cell polyfunctionality and HIV-suppressive activity.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Unité, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.


CD8(+) T cells are major players in the immune response against HIV. However, recent failures in the development of T cell-based vaccines against HIV-1 have emphasized the need to reassess our basic knowledge of T cell-mediated efficacy. CD8(+) T cells from HIV-1-infected patients with slow disease progression exhibit potent polyfunctionality and HIV-suppressive activity, yet the factors that unify these properties are incompletely understood. We performed a detailed study of the interplay between T-cell functional attributes using a bank of HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cell clones isolated in vitro; this approach enabled us to overcome inherent difficulties related to the in vivo heterogeneity of T-cell populations and address the underlying determinants that synthesize the qualities required for antiviral efficacy. Conclusions were supported by ex vivo analysis of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells from infected donors. We report that attributes of CD8(+) T-cell efficacy against HIV are linked at the level of antigen sensitivity. Highly sensitive CD8(+) T cells display polyfunctional profiles and potent HIV-suppressive activity. These data provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying CD8(+) T-cell efficacy against HIV, and indicate that vaccine strategies should focus on the induction of HIV-specific T cells with high levels of antigen sensitivity to elicit potent antiviral efficacy.

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