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UNLABELLED: The mechanisms of viral control and loss of viral control in chronically infected individuals with or without protective HLA class I alleles are not fully understood. We therefore characterized longitudinally the immunological and virological features that may explain divergence in disease outcome in 70 HIV-1 C-clade-infected antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive South African adults, 35 of whom possessed protective HLA class I alleles. We demonstrate that, over 5 years of longitudinal study, 35% of individuals with protective HLA class I alleles lost viral control compared to none of the individuals without protective HLA class I alleles (P = 0.06). Sustained HIV-1 control in patients with protective HLA class I alleles was characteristically related to the breadth of HIV-1 CD8(+) T cell responses against Gag and enhanced ability of CD8(+) T cells to suppress viral replication ex vivo In some cases, loss of virological control was associated with reduction in the total breadth of CD8(+) T cell responses in the absence of differences in HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cell polyfunctionality or proliferation. In contrast, viremic controllers without protective HLA class I alleles possessed reduced breadth of HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cell responses characterized by reduced ability to suppress viral replication ex vivo These data suggest that the control of HIV-1 in individuals with protective HLA class I alleles may be driven by broad CD8(+) T cell responses with potent viral inhibitory capacity while control among individuals without protective HLA class I alleles may be more durable and mediated by CD8(+) T cell-independent mechanisms. IMPORTANCE: Host mechanisms of natural HIV-1 control are not fully understood. In a longitudinal study of antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive individuals, we show that those with protective HLA class I alleles subsequently experienced virologic failure compared to those without protective alleles. Among individuals with protective HLA class I alleles, viremic control was associated with broad CD8(+) T cells that targeted the Gag protein, and CD8(+) T cells from these individuals exhibited superior virus inhibition capacity. In individuals without protective HLA class I alleles, HIV-1-specific CD8(+) T cell responses were narrow and poorly inhibited virus replication. These results suggest that broad, highly functional cytotoxic T cells (cytotoxic T lymphocytes [CTLs]) against the HIV-1 Gag protein are associated with control among those with protective HLA class I alleles and that loss of these responses eventually leads to viremia. A subset of individuals appears to have alternative, non-CTL mechanisms of viral control. These controllers may hold the key to an effective HIV vaccine.

Original publication

DOI

10.1128/JVI.00276-16

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Virol

Publication Date

01/08/2016

Volume

90

Pages

6818 - 6831

Keywords

Adult, Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Viral Load, Viremia, Virus Replication