JCI Insight 2019 Apr 18;4(8). Epub 2019 Apr 18.
Laboratory of Immunoregulation, HIV Pathogenesis Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Background: The goal of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to suppress HIV-1 replication and reconstitute CD4+ T cells. Here, we report on HIV-infected individuals who had a paradoxical decline in CD4+ T cells despite ART-mediated suppression of plasma HIV-1 load (pVL). We defined such an immunological outcome as extreme immune decline (EXID).
Methods: EXID's clinical and immunological characteristics were compared to immunological responders (IRs), immunological nonresponders (INRs), healthy controls (HCs), and idiopathic CD4+ lymphopenia (ICL) patients. T cell immunophenotyping and assembly/activation of inflammasomes were evaluated by flow cytometry. PBMC transcriptome analysis and genetic screening for pathogenic variants were performed. Levels of cytokines/chemokines were measured by electrochemiluminescence. Luciferase immunoprecipitation system and NK-mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) assays were used to identify anti-lymphocyte autoantibodies.
Results: EXIDs were infected with non-B HIV-1 subtypes and after 192 weeks of consistent ART-mediated pVL suppression had a median CD4+ decrease of 157 cells/μl, compared with CD4+ increases of 193 cells/μl and 427 cells/μl in INR and IR, respectively. EXID had reduced naive CD4+ T cells, but similar proportions of cycling CD4+ T cells and HLA-DR+CD38+CD8+ T cells compared with IR and INR. Levels of inflammatory cytokines were also similar in EXID and INR, but the IL-7 axis was profoundly perturbed compared with HC, IR, INR, and ICL. Genes involved in T cell and monocyte/macrophage function, autophagy, and cell migration were differentially expressed in EXID. Two of the 5 EXIDs had autoantibodies causing ADCC, while 2 different EXIDs had an increased inflammasome/caspase-1 activation despite consistently ART-suppressed pVL.
Conclusions: EXID is a distinct immunological outcome compared with previously described INR. Anti-CD4+ T cell autoantibodies and aberrant inflammasome/caspase-1 activation despite suppressed HIV-1 viremia are among the mechanisms responsible for EXID.