Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Women Have High Numbers of CD103-CD8+ T Cells Residing Close to the Basal Membrane of the Ectocervical Epithelium

J Infect Dis. 2018 Jul 2;218(3):453-465. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jix661.


Background: Genital mucosa is the main portal of entry for various incoming pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hence it is an important site for host immune defenses. Tissue-resident memory T (TRM) cells defend tissue barriers against infections and are characterized by expression of CD103 and CD69. In this study, we describe the composition of CD8+ TRM cells in the ectocervix of healthy and HIV-infected women.

Methods: Study samples were collected from healthy Swedish and Kenyan HIV-infected and uninfected women. Customized computerized image-based in situ analysis was developed to assess the ectocervical biopsies. Genital mucosa and blood samples were assessed by flow cytometry.

Results: Although the ectocervical epithelium of healthy women was populated with bona fide CD8+ TRM cells (CD103+CD69+), women infected with HIV displayed a high frequency of CD103-CD8+ cells residing close to their epithelial basal membrane. Accumulation of CD103-CD8+ cells was associated with chemokine expression in the ectocervix and HIV viral load. CD103+CD8+ and CD103-CD8+ T cells expressed cytotoxic effector molecules in the ectocervical epithelium of healthy and HIV-infected women. In addition, women infected with HIV had decreased frequencies of circulating CD103+CD8+ T cells.

Conclusions: Our data provide insight into the distribution of CD8+ TRM cells in human genital mucosa, a critically important location for immune defense against pathogens, including HIV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / analysis*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • Basement Membrane / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / classification
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cervix Uteri / pathology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Integrin alpha Chains / analysis*
  • Kenya
  • Lectins, C-Type / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology*
  • Sweden
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / classification
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD69 antigen
  • Integrin alpha Chains
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • alpha E integrins