High avidity CD8+ T cells efficiently eliminate motile HIV-infected targets and execute a locally focused program of anti-viral function

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 13;9(2):e87873. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087873. eCollection 2014.


The dissemination of HIV from an initial site of infection is facilitated by motile HIV-infected CD4(+) T-cells. However, the impact of infected target cell migration on antigen recognition by HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cells is unclear. Using a 3D in vitro model of tissue, we visualized dynamic interactions between HIV-infected or peptide-pulsed CD4(+) T-cells and HIV-specific CD8(+) T-cells. CTLs engaged motile HIV-infected targets, but ∼ 50% of targets broke contact and escaped. In contrast, immobilized target cells were readily killed, indicating target motility directly inhibits CD8(+) T-cell function. Strong calcium signals occurred in CTLs killing a motile target but calcium signaling was weak or absent in CTLs which permitted target escape. Neutralization of adhesion receptors LFA-1 and CD58 inhibited CD8(+) T-cell function within the 3D matrix, demonstrating that efficient motile target lysis as dependent on adhesive engagement of targets. Antigen sensitivity (a convolution of antigen density, TCR avidity and CD8 coreceptor binding) is also critical for target recognition. We modulated this parameter (known as functional avidity but referred to here as "avidity" for the sake of simplicity) by exploiting common HIV escape mutations and measured their impact on CTL function at the single-cell level. Targets pulsed with low avidity mutant antigens frequently escaped while CTLs killed targets bearing high avidity antigen with near-perfect efficiency. CTLs engaged, arrested, and killed an initial target bearing high avidity antigen within minutes, but serial killing was surprisingly rare. CD8 cells remained committed to their initial dead target for hours, accumulating TCR signals that sustained secretion of soluble antiviral factors. These data indicate that high-avidity CD8(+) T-cells execute an antiviral program in the precise location where antigen has been sensed: CTL effector functions are spatiotemporally coordinated with an early lytic phase followed by a sustained stationary secretory phase to control local viral infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / genetics
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology*
  • CD4 Antigens / genetics
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • CD58 Antigens / genetics
  • CD58 Antigens / immunology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Movement / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic*
  • Gene Expression
  • HIV / immunology
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Lymphocyte Function-Associated Antigen-1 / genetics
  • Lymphocyte Function-Associated Antigen-1 / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / virology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD58 Antigens
  • Lymphocyte Function-Associated Antigen-1
  • Calcium