Differential disappearance of inhibitory natural killer cell receptors during HAART and possible impairment of HIV-1-specific CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes

AIDS. 2001 May 25;15(8):965-74. doi: 10.1097/00002030-200105250-00004.


Background: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is associated with a decrease in viral replication to undetectable levels and with an increase in CD4 T lymphocytes. Residual HIV-1 replication occurs together with incomplete recovery of cytotoxic CD8 T lymphocyte (CTL) numbers and function. We sought to determine whether expression of HLA class I-specific inhibitory natural killer receptors (iNKR) on the CTL of patients who had been treated successfully with HAART for 24 months could be involved, at least in part, in residual CTL functional inhibition.

Methods: Two-colour cytofluorometry was used to analyse the expression of six different iNKR including p58.1, p58.2, p70, p140, CD94/NKG2A and LIR1/ILT2 on the CD3, CD8 lymphocytes of eight patients with successful long-term suppression of viral replication before and after 3, 6 and 24 months of HAART. Healthy subjects were analysed as controls. HIV-1-specific cytotoxic activity was determined after 24 months of HAART in the presence and absence of iNKR-masking.

Results: No significant reduction of iNKR expression on CD8 T cells was observed by 6 months. Expression of p70 and p140 was inversely correlated with the increasing CD4 numbers. After 24 months CD8 T-lymphocytes expressing p58.1, p58.2, p70, p140 and CD94/NKG2A returned to levels indistinguishable from those of the healthy controls. A significantly increased proportion of CD8 CTL still expressed LIR1/ILT2, a receptor with broad HLA-class I specificity. Functional analysis of freshly separated cells revealed that the disruption of the interaction between LIR1/ILT2 and HLA-class I could partly restore HIV-1-specific lysis.

Conclusions: A decrease in CD3CD8iNKR cells is observed beyond 6 months of HAART. In some patients functional impairment due to LIR1/ILT2 expression may persist even after 24 months of successful HAART.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Leukocyte Immunoglobulin-like Receptor B1
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily C
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Receptors, KIR
  • Receptors, KIR2DL3
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Replication


  • Antigens, CD
  • KIR2DL3 protein, human
  • KLRC1 protein, human
  • LILRB1 protein, human
  • Leukocyte Immunoglobulin-like Receptor B1
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily C
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, KIR
  • Receptors, KIR2DL3
  • Receptors, Natural Killer Cell
  • p70 natural killer cell receptor