Background: Primary HIV-infected patients display severe and irreversible damage to different blood B-cell subsets which is not restored by highly efficient anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). Because longitudinal investigations of primary HIV-infection is limited by the availability of lymphoid organs, we studied the tissue-specific B-cell dysfunctions in acutely simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) mac251-infected Cynomolgus macaques.
Methods and findings: Experiments were performed on three groups of macaques infected for 14, 21 or 28 days and on three groups of animals treated with HAART for two-weeks either initiated at 4 h, 7 or 14 days post-infection (p.i.). We have simultaneously compared changes in B-cell phenotypes and functions and tissue organization of B-cell areas in various lymphoid organs. We showed that SIV induced a steady decline in SIgG-expressing memory (SIgD(-)CD27(+)) B-cells in spleen and lymph nodes during the first 4 weeks of infection, concomitant to selective homing/sequestration of B-cells to the small intestine and spleen. SIV non-specific Ig production was transiently increased before D14p.i., whereas SIV-specific Ig production was only detectable after D14p.i., coinciding with the presence of CD8(+) T-cells and IgG-expressing plasma cells within germinal centres. Transient B-cell apoptosis on D14p.i. and commitment to terminal differentiation contributed to memory B-cell loss. HAART abrogated B-cell apoptosis, homing to the small intestine and SIV-specific Ig production but had minimal effect on early Ig production, increased B-cell proportions in spleen and loss of memory B-cells. Therefore, virus-B-cell interactions and SIV-induced inflammatory cytokines may differently contribute to early B-cell dysfunction and impaired SIV/HIV-specific antibody response.
Conclusions: These data establish tissue-specific impairments in B-cell trafficking and functions and a generalized and steady memory B-cell loss in secondary lymphoid organs. Characterization of underlying mechanisms would be helpful in designing new therapeutic strategies to dampen B-cell activation and increases HIV/SIV specific antibody response.