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Keywords:

  • CD4+ T cells;
  • chronic immune activation;
  • dendritic cells;
  • herpes viruses;
  • HIV pathogenesis

Abstract

Hyperactivation of CD4+ T cells is a hallmark of untreated HIV-1 infection. The antigenic specificities of activated CD4+ T cells and the underlying mechanisms leading to their activation remain thus far elusive. We report here that during HIV rebound the dynamics of HIV-specific CD4+ T cells is highly correlated with the dynamics of CD4+ T cells specific for persistent antigens derived from various members of the herpes virus family, whereas CD4 responses towards non-persistent antigens were unaffected by HIV replication. Notably, the dynamics of HIV and herpes viral antigen-specific CD4+ T cells responses correlated with the expression level of activation markers on dendritic cells (DCs) and activated DCs were more potent in restimulating memory T cells. These data strongly suggest that HIV replication costimulates activation of CD4+ T cells specific for persistent herpes viral antigens via activation of DCs. We propose that a large proportion of activated T cells during untreated HIV infection may be specific for herpes viral antigens and identify a novel mechanism contributing to chronic immune activation in untreated HIV-1 infection.