The mutational escape of HIV-1 from established CTL responses is becoming evident. However, it is not yet clear whether antigenic variations of HIV-1 may have an additional effect on the differential antiviral effectiveness of HIV-specific CTLs. Herein, we characterized HIV-specific CTL responses toward Pol, Env, and Nef optimal epitopes presented by HLA-B*35 during a chronic phase of HIV-1 infection. We found CTL escape variants within Pol and Nef epitopes that affected recognition by TCRs, although there was no mutation within the Env epitope. An analysis of peptide-HLA tetrameric complexes revealed that CD8 T cells exclusively specific for the Nef variant were generated following domination by the variant viruses. The variant-specific cells were capable of killing target cells and producing antiviral cytokines but showed impaired Ag-specific proliferation ex vivo, whereas wild-type specific cells had potent activities. Moreover, clonotypic CD8 T cells specific for the Pol variant showed diminished proliferation, whereas Env-specific ones had no functional heterogeneity. Taken together, our data indicate that antigenic variations that abolished TCR recognition not only resulted in escape from established CTL responses but also eventually generated another subset of variant-specific CTLs having decreased antiviral activity, causing an additional negative effect on antiviral immune responses during a chronic HIV infection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy