Natural killer (NK) cells are associated with the innate immune response and are important in many viral infections. Recent studies indicate that NK cells can control human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication. We studied the effect of NK cells on HIV-1 replication in a subpopulation of HIV-1-infected individuals termed elite suppressors (ES) or elite controllers. These patients maintain a clinically undetectable viral load without treatment and thus provide a fascinating cohort in which to study the immunological response to HIV-1. Using an autologous system, we analyzed the effects of NK cells and CD8+ T cells on viral replication in CD4+ T lymphoblasts. Although we had postulated that NK cells of ES would be highly effective at controlling viral replication, we found that NK cells from some, but not all, ES were capable of inhibiting replication in the presence of interleukin-2, and the inhibition was less robust than that mediated by CD8 + T cells. Additionally, we examined whether particular alleles of the KIR receptors, specifically KIR3DS1 and KIR3DL1, or allele-ligand combinations correlated with the control of HIV-1 replication by NK cells and whether any specific KIR alleles were overrepresented in ES. Our ES cohort did not differ from the general population with respect to the frequency of individual KIR. However, of the eight ES studied, the four exhibiting the most NK cell-mediated control of viral replication also had the fewest activating KIR and were haplotype A. Thus, the strong NK cell-mediated inhibition of viral replication is not necessary for the immunological control of HIV-1 in all ES.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science