Human Immunodeficiency Virus Proteins Mimic Human T Cell Receptors Inducing Cross-Reactive Antibodies

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 3;18(10):2091. doi: 10.3390/ijms18102091.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) hides from the immune system in part by mimicking host antigens, including human leukocyte antigens. It is demonstrated here that HIV also mimics the V-β-D-J-β of approximately seventy percent of about 600 randomly selected human T cell receptors (TCR). This degree of mimicry is greater than any other human pathogen, commensal or symbiotic organism studied. These data suggest that HIV may be evolving into a commensal organism just as simian immunodeficiency virus has done in some types of monkeys. The gp120 envelope protein, Nef protein and Pol protein are particularly similar to host TCR, camouflaging HIV from the immune system and creating serious barriers to the development of safe HIV vaccines. One consequence of HIV mimicry of host TCR is that antibodies against HIV proteins have a significant probability of recognizing the corresponding TCR as antigenic targets, explaining the widespread observation of lymphocytotoxic autoantibodies in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Quantitative enzyme-linked immunoadsorption assays (ELISA) demonstrated that every HIV antibody tested recognized at least one of twelve TCR, and as many as seven, with a binding constant in the 10-8 to 10-9 m range. HIV immunity also affects microbiome tolerance in ways that correlate with susceptibility to specific opportunistic infections.

Keywords: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; antigenic mimicry; autoholoimmunity; autoimmunity; holoimmunity; lymphocytotoxic autoantibodies; microbiome; tolerance.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology
  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cross Reactions
  • HIV / chemistry
  • HIV / immunology*
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus Proteins / chemistry
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus Proteins / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Proteomics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / chemistry
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*


  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell