Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are characterized by the combined expression of the semi-invariant T cell receptor (TCR) Vα7.2, the lectin receptor CD161, as well as IL-18R, and play an important role in antibacterial host defense of the gut. The current study characterized CD161+ MAIT and CD161-TCRVα7.2+ T cell subsets within a large cohort of HIV patients with emphasis on patients with slow disease progression and elite controllers. Mononuclear cells from blood and lymph node samples as well as plasma from 63 patients and 26 healthy donors were analyzed by multicolor flow cytometry and ELISA for IL-18, sCD14 and sCD163. Additionally, MAIT cells were analyzed after in vitro stimulation with different cytokines and/or fixed E.coli. Reduced numbers of CD161+ MAIT cells during HIV infection were detectable in the blood and lymph nodes of all patient groups, including elite controllers. CD161+ MAIT cell numbers did not recover even after successful antiretroviral treatment. The loss of CD161+ MAIT cells was correlated with higher levels of MAIT cell activation; an increased frequency of the CD161-TCRVα7.2+T cell subset in HIV infection was observed. In vitro stimulation of MAIT cells with IL-18 and IL-12, IL-7 and fixed E.coli also resulted in a rapid and additive reduction of the MAIT cell frequency defined by CD161, IL-18R and CCR6. In summary, the irreversible reduction of the CD161+ MAIT cell subset seems to be an early event in HIV infection that is independent of later stages of the disease. This loss appears to be at least partially due to the distinctive vulnerability of MAIT cells to the pronounced stimulation by microbial products and cytokines during HIVinfection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)