Although the impairment of HIV-specific T lymphocytes is evident during chronic HIV-infection, it is unclear whether the increased CD8+ T cells associates with either selective or overall change of effector functional phenotype. Instead of study on HIV-specific T cells only, analyzing bulk T cell populations represent a neglected area of T cell impairment, which go far beyond HIV-specific T cells.
In this study, we determined the diversity of CD8+ T cells in term of cytolytic molecule expression (perforin, granzyme A, and granzyme B) and cytokine production ability (IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and IL-2) using intracellular staining and flow cytometry technique. The results were compared between healthy individuals, untreated, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) treated HIV infected patients.
We demonstrated the presence of four different subsets of CD8+ T cells that expressed different combinations of cytolytic molecules. We also identified seven different subsets of cytokine producing cells based on different combination of IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and IL-2. Results showed significant alterations of these cell subsets that expressed different combination of cytolytic effector molecules or cytokines in HIV infected patients. Furthermore, cytolytic molecule expressing cell subsets are not normalized in effective ART treated patients, whereas the selective population of cytokine producing cells returned to normal value.
The effector diversity of CD8+ T cells changed in HIV infected patients. Although effective ART altered functional diversity of these cells, long-term suppression of viral replication may be required to normalize the selected CD8+ T cell effector phenotype in HIV infected patients. © 2011 International Clinical Cytometry Society