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J Leukoc Biol. 2013 Jun;93(6):943-50. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1112580. Epub 2013 Mar 21.

CD8 down-regulation and functional impairment of SIV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in lymphoid and mucosal tissues during SIV infection.

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Division of Comparative Pathology, Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, LA 70433, USA.


Functional impairment of virus-specific T cells is a hallmark of HIV/SIV infection, but the underlying mechanisms of this dysfunction are not well understood. To address this, we simultaneously analyzed the expression and intensity of CD8 and inhibitory PD-1 on CTL in blood and lymphoid tissues in SIV-infected rhesus macaques. The intensity (mean channel fluorescence) of CD8 expression was transiently down-regulated in early SIV infection (10-14 dpi), despite an increase in CD8(+) T cell proliferation. In chronic infection, CD8 expression was maintained at low levels on CD8(+) T cells in all tissues. Interestingly, Gag-specific CTLs were clearly divided into CD8high- and CD8low-expressing populations in SIV-infected macaques, and CD8low Gag-specific cells increased with disease progression, especially in lymphoid tissues when compared with peripheral blood or in Gag-vaccinated controls. Moreover, the CD8low CTL population secreted lower levels of cytokines upon SIV antigen stimulation and exhibited lower proliferative capacity during infection compared with the CD8high CTL population. Meanwhile, intensity of PD-1 expression on Gag-specific CTL in chronic infection was significantly higher than in acute SIV infection, although the frequencies of PD-1+ Gag-specific cells were similar in acute and chronic stages. In summary, down-regulation of CD8 expression and higher expression of PD-1 on SIV-specific CTLs could coordinately attenuate SIV-specific CTL responses and their ability to recognize virus-infected target cells, especially in lymphoid tissues, resulting in failure to contain viremia, and continued persistence and replication of HIV in lymphoid tissue reservoirs.


CD8+ T cell; CTL; HIV; immunology; intestine

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