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J Virol. 2018 Nov 12;92(23). pii: e01143-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01143-18. Print 2018 Dec 1.

Modulation of Vaccine-Induced CD4 T Cell Functional Profiles by Changes in Components of HIV Vaccine Regimens in Humans.

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U.S. Military HIV Research Program, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.
Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Institute for HIV Research, University Hospital, University Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Department of Retrovirology, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand.
Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand.
Vaccine Trial Centre, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
HPSTD Clinic, University Hospital, University Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
U.S. Military HIV Research Program, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Contributed equally


To date, six vaccine strategies have been evaluated in clinical trials for their efficacy at inducing protective immune responses against HIV infection. However, only the ALVAC-HIV/AIDSVAX B/E vaccine (RV144 trial) has demonstrated protection, albeit modestly (31%; P = 0.03). One potential correlate of protection was a low-frequency HIV-specific CD4 T cell population with diverse functionality. Although CD4 T cells, particularly T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, are critical for effective antibody responses, most studies involving HIV vaccines have focused on humoral immunity or CD8 T cell effector responses, and little is known about the functionality and frequency of vaccine-induced CD4 T cells. We therefore assessed responses from several phase I/II clinical trials and compared them to responses to natural HIV-1 infection. We found that all vaccines induced a lower magnitude of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses than that observed for chronic infection. Responses differed in functionality, with a CD40 ligand (CD40L)-dominated response and more Tfh cells after vaccination, whereas chronic HIV infection provoked tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α)-dominated responses. The vaccine delivery route further impacted CD4 T cells, showing a stronger Th1 polarization after dendritic cell delivery than after intramuscular vaccination. In prime/boost regimens, the choice of prime and boost influenced the functional profile of CD4 T cells to induce more or less polyfunctionality. In summary, vaccine-induced CD4 T cell responses differ remarkably between vaccination strategies, modes of delivery, and boosts and do not resemble those induced by chronic HIV infection. Understanding the functional profiles of CD4 T cells that best facilitate protective antibody responses will be critical if CD4 T cell responses are to be considered a clinical trial go/no-go criterion.IMPORTANCE Only one HIV-1 candidate vaccine strategy has shown protection, albeit marginally (31%), against HIV-1 acquisition, and correlates of protection suggested that a multifunctional CD4 T cell immune response may be important for this protective effect. Therefore, the functional phenotypes of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses induced by different phase I and phase II clinical trials were assessed to better show how different vaccine strategies influence the phenotype and function of HIV-specific CD4 T cell immune responses. The significance of this research lies in our comprehensive comparison of the compositions of the T cell immune responses to different HIV vaccine modalities. Specifically, our work allows for the evaluation of vaccination strategies in terms of their success at inducing Tfh cell populations.


CD4 T cells; HIV vaccine; RV144; Tfh cells; human immunodeficiency virus

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