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J Immunol. 2007 Jan 15;178(2):788-97.

The duration of exposure to HIV modulates the breadth and the magnitude of HIV-specific memory CD4+ T cells.

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Laboratoire d'Immunologie, Département de Microbiologie et Immunologie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


The impact of exposure to Ag on the development and maintenance of human CD4(+) memory T cells in general and HIV infection in particular is partially understood. In this study, we measured HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell proliferative responses against HIV proteins and derived peptides one year after highly active antiretroviral therapy initiation in 39 HIV-infected patients who initiated therapy at different times following infection. We show that a brief exposure to HIV of <1 month does not allow the generation of significant detectable frequencies of HIV-specific CD4(+) memory T cells. Patients having prolonged cumulative exposure to high viral load due to therapy failures also demonstrated limited HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses. In contrast, patients exposed to significant levels of virus for periods ranging from 3 to 18 mo showed brisk and broad HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses 1 year following the onset of therapy intervention. We also demonstrate that the nadir CD4(+) T cell count before therapy initiation correlated positively with the breadth and magnitude of these responses. Our findings indicate that the loss of proliferative HIV-specific CD4(+) T cell responses is associated with the systemic progression of the disease and that a brief exposure to HIV does not allow the establishment of detectable frequencies of HIV-specific memory CD4(+) T cells.

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