The impact of viral evolution and frequency of variant epitopes on primary and memory human immunodeficiency virus type 1-specific CD8+ T cell responses

Nada M. Melhem, Kellie N. Smith, Xiao Li Huang, Bonnie A. Colleton, Weimin Jiang, Robbie B. Mailliard, James I. Mullins, Charles R. Rinaldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It is unclear if HIV-1 variants lose the ability to prime naïve CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) during progressive, untreated infection. We conducted a comprehensive longitudinal analysis of viral evolution and its impact on primary and memory CD8+ T cell responses pre-seroconversion (SC), post-SC, and during combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Memory T cell responses targeting autologous virus variants reached a nadir by 8 years post-SC with development of AIDS, followed by a transient enhancement of anti-HIV-1 CTL responses upon initiation of cART. We show broad and high magnitude primary T cell responses to late variants in pre-SC T cells, comparable to primary anti-HIV-1 responses induced in T cells from uninfected persons. Despite evolutionary changes, CD8+ T cells could still be primed to HIV-1 variants. Hence, vaccination against late, mutated epitopes could be successful in enhancing primary reactivity of T cells for control of the residual reservoir of HIV-1 during cART.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-48
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014



  • Autologous viral variants
  • CART
  • HIV-1
  • Memory T cell responses
  • Primary T cell responses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

Cite this