Purpose of review: The phenomenon of long-term nonprogression in HIV infection has been recognized for some time, and the ability of rare individuals, designated 'elite controllers', to control HIV in the absence of therapy is the focus of numerous ongoing studies. This review focuses on studies of HIV-specific immune responses in mucosal tissues as a potential correlate of immune control, with an emphasis on recently published work.
Recent findings: Genetic studies have implicated a role for elements localized to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on chromosome 6 in the immune control of HIV infection. In parallel, functional studies have strongly implicated MHC class I-restricted, CD8+ T-cell responses as a major contributor to elite control. In addition, the localization of HIV-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells with respect to the major sites of virus replication in the body may be critical in determining clinical outcome.
Summary: Recent findings suggest that MHC class I-restricted, CD8+ T cells are a major component of immune control in 'elite controllers'. In addition, the presence of these effector cells at or near critical viral reservoirs, such as mucosal tissues, may be critical in determining their effectiveness at limiting viral replication and dissemination.