During chronic lentiviral infection, poor clinical outcomes correlate both with systemic inflammation and poor proliferative ability of HIV-specific T cells; however, the connection between the two is not clear. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), which expand during states of elevated circulating inflammatory cytokines, may link the systemic inflammation and poor T cell function characteristic of lentiviral infections. Although MDSC are partially characterized in HIV and SIV infection, questions remain regarding their persistence, activity, and clinical significance. We monitored MDSC frequency and function in SIV-infected rhesus macaques. Low MDSC frequency was observed prior to SIV infection. Post-SIV infection, MDSC were elevated in acute infection and persisted during 7 mo of combination antiretroviral drug therapy (cART). After cART interruption, we observed MDSC expansion of surprising magnitude, the majority being granulocytic MDSC. At all stages of infection, granulocytic MDSC suppressed CD4+ and CD8+ T cell proliferation in response to polyclonal or SIV-specific stimulation. In addition, MDSC frequency correlated significantly with circulating inflammatory cytokines. Acute and post-cART levels of viremia were similar, however, the levels of inflammatory cytokines and MDSC were more pronounced post-cART. Expanded MDSC during SIV infection, especially during the post-cART inflammatory cytokine surge, likely limit cellular responses to infection. As many HIV curative strategies require cART interruption to determine efficacy, our work suggests treatment interruption-induced MDSC may especially undermine the effectiveness of such strategies. MDSC depletion may enhance T cell responses to lentiviral infection and the effectiveness of curative approaches.
Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.