HLA-II-Associated HIV-1 Adaptation Decreases CD4+ T-Cell Responses in HIV-1 Vaccine Recipients

Academic Article


  • Epitopes with evidence of HLA-II-associated adaptation induce poorly immunogenic CD41 T-cell responses in HIV-positive (HIV1) individuals. Many such escaped CD41 T-cell epitopes are encoded by HIV-1 vaccines being evaluated in clinical trials. Here, we assessed whether this viral adaptation adversely impacts CD41 T-cell responses following HIV-1 vaccination, thereby representing escaped epitopes. When evaluated in separate peptide pools, vaccine-encoded adapted epitopes (AE) induced CD41 T-cell responses less frequently than nonadapted epitopes (NAE). We also demonstrated that in a polyvalent vaccine, where both forms of the same epitope were encoded, AE were less immunogenic. NAE-specific CD41 T cells had increased, albeit low, levels of interferon gamma (IFN-g) cytokine production. Single-cell transcriptomic analyses showed that NAE-specific CD41 T cells expressed interferon-related genes, while AE-specific CD41 T cells resembled a Th2 phenotype. Importantly, the magnitude of NAE-specific CD41 T-cell responses, but not that of AE-specific responses, was found to positively correlate with Env-specific antibodies in a vaccine efficacy trial. Together, these findings show that HLA-II-associated viral adaptation reduces CD41 T-cell responses in HIV-1 vaccine recipients and suggest that vaccines encoding a significant number of AE may not provide optimal B-cell help for HIV-specific antibody production. IMPORTANCE Despite decades of research, an effective HIV-1 vaccine remains elusive. Vaccine strategies leading to the generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies are likely needed to provide the best opportunity of generating a protective immune response against HIV-1. Numerous studies have demonstrated that T-cell help is necessary for effective antibody generation. However, immunogen sequences from recent HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials include CD41 T-cell epitopes that have evidence of immune escape. Our study shows that these epitopes, termed adapted epitopes, elicit lower frequencies of CD41 T-cell responses in recipients from multiple HIV-1 vaccine trials. Additionally, the counterparts to these epitopes, termed nonadapted epitopes, elicited CD41 T-cell responses that correlated with Env-specific antibodies in one efficacy trial. These results suggest that vaccine-encoded adapted epitopes dampen CD41 T-cell responses, potentially impacting both HIV-specific antibody production and efficacious vaccine efforts.
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    Author List

  • Files JK; Sterrett S; Henostroza S; Fucile C; Maroney K; Fram T; Mallal S; Kalams S; Carlson J; Rosenberg A
  • Volume

  • 96
  • Issue

  • 17