While the relationship of protective human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I alleles and HIV progression is well defined, the interaction of HLA-mediated protection and CD8 T-cell exhaustion is less well characterized. To gain insight into the influence of HLA-B*57:01 on the deterioration of CD8 T-cell responses during HIV infection in the absence of antiretroviral treatment, we compared HLA-B*57:01-restricted HIV-specific CD8 T-cell responses to responses restricted by other HLA class I alleles longitudinally after control of peak viremia. Detailed characterization of polyfunctionality, differentiation phenotypes, transcription factor, and inhibitory receptor expression revealed progression of CD8 T-cell exhaustion over the course of the infection in both patient groups. However, early effects on the phenotype of the total CD8 T-cell population were apparent only in HLA-B*57-negative patients. The HLA-B*57:01-restricted, HIV epitope-specific CD8 T-cell responses showed beneficial functional patterns and significantly lower frequencies of inhibitory receptor expression, i.e., PD-1 and coexpression of PD-1 and TIGIT, within the first year of infection. Coexpression of PD-1 and TIGIT was correlated with clinical markers of disease progression and declining percentages of the T-bethi Eomesdim CD8 T-cell population. In accordance with clinical and immunological deterioration in the HLA-B*57:01 group, the difference in PD-1 and TIGIT receptor expression did not persist to later stages of the disease.IMPORTANCE Given the synergistic nature of TIGIT and PD-1, the coexpression of those inhibitory receptors should be considered when evaluating T-cell pathogenesis, developing immunomodulatory therapies or vaccines for HIV, and when using immunotherapy or vaccination for other causes in HIV-infected patients. HIV-mediated T-cell exhaustion influences the patient´s disease progression, immune system and subsequently non-AIDS complications, and efficacy of vaccinations against other pathogens. Consequently, the possibilities of interfering with exhaustion are numerous. Expanding the use of immunomodulatory therapies to include HIV treatment depends on information about possible targets and their role in the deterioration of the immune system. Furthermore, the rise of immunotherapies against cancer and elevated cancer incidence in HIV-infected patients together increase the need for detailed knowledge of T-cell exhaustion and possible interactions. A broader approach to counteract immune exhaustion to alleviate complications and improve efficacy of other vaccines also promises to increase patients' health and quality of life.
Keywords: CD4; CD8-positive T lymphocytes; HIV Gag; HIV-1; PD-1; T-cell immunoreceptor with Ig and ITIM domain; TIGIT; cellular immunity; disease progression; evolution; human HLA-B*5701 antigen; molecular evolution; programmed cell death protein 1; viral load.
Copyright © 2020 Scharf et al.