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Blood. 2011 Jul 28;118(4):965-74. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-12-328070. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Responsiveness of HIV-specific CD4 T cells to PD-1 blockade.

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Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Defining the T helper functions impaired by programmed death-1 (PD-1) is crucial for understanding its role in defective HIV control and determining the therapeutic potential of targeting this inhibitory pathway. We describe here the relationships among disease stage, levels of PD-1 expression, and reversibility of CD4 T-cell impairment. PD-L1 blockade in vitro enhanced HIV-specific production of Th0 (IL-2), Th1 (IFN-γ), Th2 (IL-13), and TFH (IL-21) cytokines by CD4 T cells. PD-L1 blockade caused an early increase in cytokine transcription and translation that preceded cell proliferation. Although the impact of PD-L1 blockade on cytokine expression and, to a lesser extent, cell proliferation was associated with markers of disease progression, restoration of cytokine secretion was also observed in most subjects with undetectable viremia. PD-L1 blockade restored cytokine secretion in both PD-1intermediate and PD-1high sorted CD4 T-cell subsets. Compared with PD-1high HIV-specific CD8 T cells, PD-1high HIV-specific CD4 T cells showed lower expression of the inhibitory molecules CD160 and 2B4, demonstrating marked differences in expression of inhibitory receptors between T-cell subsets. These data show that PD-1 impairs HIV-specific T helper responses both by limiting expansion of these cells and by inhibiting effector functions of multiple differentiated CD4 T-cell subsets.

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