Sigmoid Th17 populations, the HIV latent reservoir, and microbial translocation in men on long-term antiretroviral therapy

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Objective:Th17 cells play an important role in mucosal defence and repair and are highly susceptible to infection by HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) suppresses HIV viremia and can restore CD4+ numbers in the blood and gastrointestinal mucosa, but the resolution of systemic inflammation and gut microbial translocation is often incomplete. We hypothesized that this might relate to persistent dysregulation of gut CD4+ Th17 subsets.Methods:Blood and sigmoid biopsies were collected from HIV-uninfected men, chronically HIV-infected, ART-naive men, and men on effective ART for more than 4 years. Sigmoid provirus levels were assayed blind to participant status, as were CD4+ Th17 subsets, systemic markers of microbial translocation, and cellular immune activation.Results:There was minimal CD4+ Th17 dysregulation in the blood until later stage HIV infection, but gastrointestinal Th17 depletion was apparent much earlier, along with increased plasma markers of microbial translocation. Plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) remained elevated despite overall normalization of sigmoid Th17 populations on long-term ART, although there was considerable interindividual variability in Th17 reconstitution. An inverse correlation was observed between plasma LPS levels and gut Th17 frequencies, and higher plasma LPS levels correlated with an increased gut HIV proviral reservoir.Conclusion:Sigmoid Th17 populations were preferentially depleted during HIV infection. Despite overall CD4+ T-cell reconstitution, sigmoid Th17 frequencies after long-term ART were heterogeneous and higher frequencies were correlated with reduced microbial translocation.

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