B7-H6-mediated downregulation of NKp30 in natural killer cells contributes to HIV-2 immune escape

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HIV-1 and HIV-2 differ notably in their epidemiology, with worldwide HIV-1 spread and HIV-2 mainly confined to West Africa. Natural killer (NK) cells are critical antiviral effectors of the immune system; however, limited information is available about these innate effector cells during HIV-2 infection.


In this study, 24 untreated HIV-2-infected patients were analyzed and compared with 21 long-term nonprogressor and 10 controller HIV-1+ patients, and healthy donors. Extensive phenotype and functional NK-cell characteristics, as well as ligands of activating NK receptors involved in NK lysis were determined by flow cytometry.


We report in HIV-2+ patients a very significant reduced expression of the activating NKp30 receptor (P < 0.0001) on NK cells, much higher than observed in HIV-1+ patients. The impaired expression of NKp30 is correlated negatively with HLA-DR (r = −0.5970; P = 0.0002), and positively with both NKG2A (r = 0.5324; P < 0.0001) and Siglec-7 (r = 0.5621; P = 0.0004). HIV-2+ patients with NKp30low NK cells displayed overproduction of IFN-γ (P < 0.0001) associated with impaired cytolytic function when tested against target cells expressing surface B7-H6. This cellular ligand of NKp30 is strongly detectable as a surface molecule on CD4+ T cells infected by HIV-2.


Altogether, our data suggested that the defective expression of NKp30 may be induced by the chronic engagement of this receptor by B7-H6 expressed on HIV-2-infected target cells. This represents a novel mechanism by which the chronic ligand exposure by the viral environment may subvert NK-cell-mediated function to establish persistent HIV-2 infection.

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