Protective genotypes in HIV infection reflect superior function of KIR3DS1+ over KIR3DL1+ CD8+ T cells

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Certain human class I histocompatibility-linked leukocyte antigen (HLA)/killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) genotypic combinations confer more favourable prognoses upon exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These combinations influence natural killer (NK) cell function, thereby implicating NK cells in protection from HIV infection or disease progression. Because CD8+ T cells restrict HIV replication, depend upon HLA class I antigen presentation and can also express KIR molecules, we investigated how these HLA/KIR combinations relate to the phenotype and function of CD8+ T cells from uninfected controls and individuals with chronic HIV infection. CD8+ T cells from KIR3DL1 and KIR3DS1 homozygous individuals, and expressing the corresponding KIR, were enumerated and phenotyped for CD127, CD57 and CD45RA expression. Ex vivo and in vitro responsiveness to antigen-specific and polyclonal stimulation was compared between KIR-expressing and non-expressing CD8+ T cells by interferon-γ production. There were higher numbers and fractions of KIR3DL1-expressing CD8+ T cells in HIV-infected individuals independent of HLA-Bw4 co-expression, whereas expansion of KIR3DS1-expressing CD8+ T cells reflected HLA-Bw4*80I co-expression. KIR3DL1+ and S1+ CD8+ T cells were predominantly CD127-CD57+CD45RA+. KIR3DL1-expressing CD8+ T cells were insensitive to ex vivo stimulation with peptides from HIV or common viruses, but responded to anti-CD3 and recovered responsiveness to common viruses in vitro. Ex vivo non-responsiveness of KIR3DL1-expressing CD8+ T cells was also independent of HLA-Bw4. KIR3DS1-expressing T cells responded normally to ex vivo antigenic stimulation, illustrating functional superiority over KIR3DL1+ CD8+ T cells.

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