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Blood. 2011 May 19;117(20):5372-80. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-12-323162. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

Regulatory T cells control HIV replication in activated T cells through a cAMP-dependent mechanism.

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Division of Molecular Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Research Foundation, Cincinnati, OH, USA.


We hypothesized that regulatory T cells (Tregs) could play a beneficial role during HIV infection by controlling HIV replication in conventional T cells (Tcons). Purified Tregs and Tcons from healthy donors were activated separately. Tcons were infected with the X4 or R5 HIV strains and cultured with or without autologous Tregs. Coculture of Tcons and Tregs resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of Tcon infection, which was significant when a 1:1 Treg:Tcon ratio was used. Treg suppression of HIV infection was largely mediated by contact-dependent mechanisms. Blockage of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 did not significantly reduce Treg function. In contrast, Tregs acted through cAMP-dependent mechanisms, because the decrease of cAMP levels in Tregs, the blockade of gap junction formation between Tregs and Tcons, the blockage of CD39 activity, and the blockage of protein kinase A in Tcons all abolished Treg-mediated suppression of HIV replication. Our data suggest a complex role for Tregs during HIV infection. Although Tregs inhibit specific immune responses, their inhibition of HIV replication in Tcons may play a beneficial role, particularly during early HIV infection, when the effector immune cells are not yet activated. Such a protective role of Tregs could have a profound impact on infection outcome.

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