Follicular CD8+ T (fCD8) cells reside within B cell follicles and are thought to be immune-privileged sites of HIV/SIV infection. We have observed comparable levels of fCD8 cells between chronically SIV-infected rhesus macaques with low viral loads (LVL) and high viral loads (HVL), raising the question concerning their contribution to viremia control. In this study, we sought to clarify the role of SIV-specific fCD8 cells in lymph nodes during the course of SIV infection in rhesus macaques. We observed that fCD8 cells, T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, and T follicular regulatory cells (Tfreg) were all elevated in chronic SIV infection. fCD8 cells of LVL animals tended to express more Gag-specific granzyme B and exhibited significantly greater killing than did HVL animals, and their cell frequencies were negatively correlated with viremia, suggesting a role in viremia control. Env- and Gag-specific IL-21+ Tfh of LVL but not HVL macaques negatively correlated with viral load, suggesting better provision of T cell help to fCD8 cells. Tfreg positively correlated with fCD8 cells in LVL animals and negatively correlated with viremia, suggesting a potential benefit of Tfreg via suppression of chronic inflammation. In contrast, in HVL macaques, Tfreg and fCD8 cell frequencies tended to be negatively correlated, and a positive correlation was seen between Tfreg number and viremia, suggesting possible dysfunction and suppression of an effective fCD8 cell immune response. Our data suggest that control of virus-infected cells in B cell follicles not only depends on fCD8 cell cytotoxicity but also on complex fCD8 cell associations with Tfh cells and Tfreg.
Copyright © 2018 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.