Although HLA-B*57 (B57) is associated with slow progression to disease following HIV-1 infection, B57 heterozygotes display a wide spectrum of outcomes, including rapid progression, viremic slow progression, and elite control. Efforts to identify differences between B57-positive (B57+) slow progressors and B57+ rapid progressors have largely focused on cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) phenotypes and specificities during chronic stages of infection. Although CTL responses in the early months of infection are likely to be the most important for the long-term rate of HIV-1 disease progression, few data on the early CTL responses of eventual slow progressors have been available. Utilizing the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), we retrospectively examined the early HIV-1-specific CTL responses of 14 B57+ individuals whose time to development of disease ranged from 3.5 years to longer than 25 years after infection. In general, a greater breadth of targeting of epitopes from structural proteins, especially Gag, as well as of highly conserved epitopes from any HIV-1 protein, correlated with longer times until disease. The single elite controller in the cohort was an outlier on several correlations of CTL targeting and time until disease, consistent with reports that elite control is typically not achieved solely by protective HLA-mediated CTLs. When targeting of individual epitopes was analyzed, we found that early CTL responses to the IW9 (ISPRTLNAW) epitope of Gag, while generally subdominant, correlated with delayed progression to disease. This is the first study to identify early CTL responses to IW9 as a correlate of protection in persons with HLA-B*57.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science