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Cell Res. 2012 May;22(5):903-14. doi: 10.1038/cr.2012.19. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

Preferential CTL targeting of Gag is associated with relative viral control in long-term surviving HIV-1 infected former plasma donors from China.

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State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing 102206, China.


It is generally believed that CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) play a critical role in limiting the replication of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and in determining the outcome of the infection, and this effect may partly depend on which HIV product is preferentially targeted. To address the correlation between HIV-1-specific CTL responses and virus replication in a cohort of former plasma donors (FPDs), 143 antiretroviral therapy naive FPDs infected with HIV-1 clade B' strains were assessed for HIV-1-specific CTL responses with an IFN-γ Elispot assay at single peptide level by using overlapping peptides (OLPs) covering the whole consensus clade B proteome. By using a Spearman's rank correlation analysis, we found that the proportion of Gag-specific CTL responses among the total virus-specific CTL activity was inversely correlated with viral loads while being positively correlated to CD4 counts, as opposed to Pol- and Env-specific responses that were associated with increased viral loads and decreased CD4 counts. In addition, Vpr-specifc CTL responses showed a similar protective effect with Gag responses, but with a much lower frequency of recognition. Significantly, we also observed an association between HLA-A*30/B*13/Cw*06 haplotype and lower viral loads that was probably due to restricted Gag-specific CTL responses. Thus, our data demonstrate the prominent role of Gag-specific CTL responses in disease control. The advantage of HLA-A*30/B*13/Cw*06 haplotype in viral control may be associated with the contribution of Gag-specific CTL responses in the studied individuals.

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