Immune tolerance properties of the testicular tissue as a viral sanctuary site in ART-treated HIV-infected adults

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Objective:HIV persistence in long-lived infected cells and in anatomical sanctuary sites are major hurdles to HIV eradication. Testicular tissue may represent a significant viral sanctuary site as it constitutes an immunologically privileged compartment. We assessed immunotolerance properties of the testicular tissue in individuals receiving suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART).Design and methods:Testicular tissue and matched blood samples were collected from six virally suppressed adults and 10 HIV-uninfected controls prior to sex reassignment surgery. T cells were purified from freshly isolated testicular interstitial cell suspensions. T-cell subsets, expression of immune activation markers and HIV DNA were assessed in matched testicular cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).Results:When compared with PBMCs, testes were characterized by a lower CD4+ T-cell proportion among total T cells, a decrease in the frequency of naive cells, an increase in the frequency of effector-memory T cells and an increase in CCR5 expression in both the HIV+ and HIV− groups. In HIV-infected individuals on ART, testes displayed higher T-cell immune activation (Coexpression of CD38 and Human Leukocyte Antigen - antigen D Related) than PBMCs. In both groups, testes were characterized by higher frequencies of immunosuppressive CD39+ regulatory T cells and a massive increase in CD73 expression on CD8+ T cells. In addition, a remarkable increase in indoleamine-pyrrole 2,3-dioxygenase immunosuppressive enzyme involved in tryptophan/kynurenine catabolism was observed in testes versus blood. Rare cells harboring HIV DNA were detected in testes from five out six participants.Conclusion:These findings suggest that the adenosine and tryptophan/kynurenine immune-metabolic pathways contribute to immune tolerance in testicular tissue. Our results suggest that testes may represent a distinctive HIV sanctuary site during ART.

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