Pre-cART Immune Parameters in People Living With HIV Might Help Predict CD8+ T-Cell Characteristics, Inflammation Levels, and Reservoir Composition After Effective cART

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Jimena Salido
Alejandro Czernikier
Cesar Trifone
María Laura Polo
María Ines Figueroa
Alejandra Urioste
Pedro Cahn
Omar Sued
Horacio Salomon
Natalia Laufer
Yanina Ghiglione
Gabriela Turk


Background: Combined antiretroviral treatment (cART) for HIV infection is highly effective in controlling viral replication. However, it cannot achieve a sterilizing cure.  Several strategies have been proposed to achieve a functional cure, some of them based on immune-mediated clearing of persistently infected cells. Here, we aimed at identifying factors related to CD8TC and CD4TC quality before cART initiation that associate with the persistence of CD8TC antiviral response after cART, inflammation levels, and the size of the viral reservoir.

Methods: Samples from 25 persons living with HIV were obtained before and after (15 months) cART initiation. Phenotype and functionality of bulk and HIV-specific T cells were assayed by flow cytometry ex vivo or after expansion in pre-cART or post-cART samples, respectively. Cell-Associated (CA) HIV DNA (total and integrated) and RNA (unspliced [US] and multiple spliced [MS]) were quantitated by real-time PCR on post-cART samples. Post-cART plasma levels of CXCL10 (IP-10), soluble CD14 (sCD14) and soluble CD163 (sCD163) were measured by ELISA. 

Results: Pre-cART phenotype of CD8TCs and magnitude and phenotype of HIV-specific response correlated with the phenotype and functionality of CD8TCs post-cART. Moreover, the phenotype of the CD8TCs pre-cART correlated with markers of HIV persistence and inflammation post-cART. Finally, exhaustion and differentiation of CD4TCs pre-cART were associated with the composition of the HIV reservoir post-cART and the level of inflammation.

Conclusions: Overall, this work provides data to help understand and identify parameters that could be used as markers in the development of immune-based functional HIV cure strategies.


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