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J Virol. 2009 Aug;83(15):7668-77. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00513-09. Epub 2009 May 20.

Strong ability of Nef-specific CD4+ cytotoxic T cells to suppress human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication in HIV-1-infected CD4+ T cells and macrophages.

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Division of Viral Immunology, Center for AIDS Research, Kumamoto University, 2-2-1 Honjo, Kumamoto 860-0811, Japan.


A restricted number of studies have shown that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-specific cytotoxic CD4+ T cells are present in HIV-1-infected individuals. However, the roles of this type of CD4+ T cell in the immune responses against an HIV-1 infection remain unclear. In this study, we identified novel Nef epitope-specific HLA-DRB1*0803-restricted cytotoxic CD4+ T cells. The CD4+ T-cell clones specific for Nef187-203 showed strong gamma interferon production after having been stimulated with autologous B-lymphoblastoid cells infected with recombinant vaccinia virus expressing Nef or pulsed with heat-inactivated virus particles, indicating the presentation of the epitope antigen through both exogenous and endogenous major histocompatibility complex class II processing pathways. Nef187-203-specific CD4+ T-cell clones exhibited strong cytotoxic activity against both HIV-1-infected macrophages and CD4+ T cells from an HLA-DRB1*0803+ donor. In addition, these Nef-specific cytotoxic CD4+ T-cell clones exhibited strong ability to suppress HIV-1 replication in both macrophages and CD4+ T cells in vitro. Nef187-203-specific cytotoxic CD4+ T cells were detected in cultures of peptide-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and in ex vivo PBMCs from 40% and 20% of DRB1*0803+ donors, respectively. These results suggest that HIV-1-specific CD4+ T cells may directly control HIV-1 infection in vivo by suppressing virus replication in HIV-1 natural host cells.

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