Suppressed cellular alloimmune responses in HIV-exposed seronegative female sex workers


Wim Jennes, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Laboratory of Immunology, Nationalestraat 155, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium


Particular human leucocyte antigen (HLA) polymorphisms have been associated with a reduced risk of HIV transmission. However, protective alloimmune responses expected to result from such a genetic predisposition have not been demonstrated. To this end, we analysed and compared cellular and humoral alloimmune responses in a cohort of female sex workers who remained human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-seronegative despite more than 3 years of high-risk sexual activity (ESN FSWs) with those of low-risk HIV-seronegative female blood donors in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. ESN FSWs showed significantly lower allostimulated CD69 expression and secretion of interferon-γ, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1β and RANTES (regulated upon activation, normal T-cell expressed and secreted) by lymphocytes than controls. In contrast, ESN FSWs showed significantly higher mitogen-stimulated CD69 expression and secretion of tumour necrosis factor-α and MIP-1β than controls. Suppression of cellular alloimmune responses among ESN FSWs was associated with a higher self-reported frequency of unprotected sex. Levels of anti-HLA class I alloantibodies in plasma were not significantly different between ESN FSWs and controls. These findings indicate that frequent sexual exposure to multiple partners results in suppression rather than activation of cellular alloimmune responses. Our data support the hypothesis that suppressed cellular alloimmune responses may play a role in protection against HIV infection.