Blocking type I interferon signaling enhances T cell recovery and reduces HIV-1 reservoirs

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Despite the efficient suppression of HIV-1 replication that can be achieved with combined antiretroviral therapy (cART), low levels of type I interferon (IFN-I) signaling persist in some individuals. This sustained signaling may impede immune recovery and foster viral persistence. Here we report studies using a monoclonal antibody to block IFN-α/β receptor (IFNAR) signaling in humanized mice (hu-mice) that were persistently infected with HIV-1. We discovered that effective cART restored the number of human immune cells in HIV-1–infected hu-mice but did not rescue their immune hyperactivation and dysfunction. IFNAR blockade fully reversed HIV-1–induced immune hyperactivation and rescued anti–HIV-1 immune responses in T cells from HIV-1–infected hu-mice. Finally, we found that IFNAR blockade in the presence of cART reduced the size of HIV-1 reservoirs in lymphoid tissues and delayed HIV-1 rebound after cART cessation in the HIV-1–infected hu-mice. We conclude that low levels of IFN-I signaling contribute to HIV-1–associated immune dysfunction and foster HIV-1 persistence in cART-treated hosts. Our results suggest that blocking IFNAR may provide a potential strategy to enhance immune recovery and reduce HIV-1 reservoirs in individuals with sustained elevations in IFN-I signaling during suppressive cART.

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