Objective: To define the effect of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on activation of T cells in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood, and interactions of this activation with CSF HIV-1 RNA concentrations.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of 14 HIV-negative subjects and 123 neuroasymptomatic HIV-1-infected subjects divided into 3 groups: not on ART (termed "offs"), on ART with plasma HIV-1 RNA >500 copies/mL ("failures"), and on ART with plasma HIV-1 RNA <or=500 copies/mL ("successes"). T-cell activation was measured by coexpression of CD38 and human leukocyte antigen DR (HLA-DR). Other measurements included CSF neopterin and white blood cell (WBC) counts.
Results: CD8 T-cell activation in CSF and blood was highly correlated across all subjects and was highest in the offs, lower in the failures, and lower still in the successes. While CD8 activation was reduced in failures compared to offs across the range of plasma HIV-1, it maintained a coincident relation to CSF HIV-1 in both viremic groups. In addition to correlation with CSF HIV-1 concentrations, CD8 activation in blood and CSF correlated with CSF WBCs and CSF neopterin. Multivariate analysis confirmed the association of blood CD8 T-cell activation, along with plasma HIV-1 RNA and CSF neopterin, with CSF HIV-1 RNA levels.
Conclusions: The similarity of CD8 T-cell activation in blood and CSF suggests these cells move from blood to CSF with only minor changes in CD38/HLA-DR expression. Differences in the relation of CD8 activation to HIV-1 concentrations in the blood and CSF in the 2 viremic groups suggest that changes in immune activation not only modulate CSF HIV-1 replication but also contribute to CSF treatment effects. The magnitude of systemic HIV-1 infection and intrathecal macrophage activation are also important determinants of CSF HIV-1 RNA levels.