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Acute-phase CD4+ T cell responses targeting invariant viral regions are associated with control of live-attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus

By Matthew S Sutton, Amy Ellis-Connell, Ryan V Moriarty, Alexis J Balgeman, Dane Gellerup, Gabrielle Barry, Andrea M Weiler, Thomas C Friedrich, Shelby L. O’Connor

Posted 13 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/321000 (published DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00830-18)

We manipulated SIVmac239Δnef, a model of MHC-independent viral control, to evaluate characteristics of effective cellular responses mounted by Mauritian cynomolgus macaques (MCMs) who express the M3 MHC haplotype that has been associated with poor control of pathogenic SIV. We created SIVΔnef-8x to test the hypothesis that effective SIV-specific T cell responses targeting invariant viral regions can emerge in the absence of immunodominant CD8+ T cell responses targeting variable epitopes, and that control is achievable in individuals lacking known 'protective' MHC alleles. Full proteome IFNγ ELISPOT assays identified six newly targeted immunogenic regions following SIVΔnef-8x infection of M3/M3 MCMs. We deep sequenced circulating virus and found that four of the six newly targeted regions rarely accumulated mutations. Six animals infected with SIVΔnef-8x targeted at least one of the four invariant regions and had a lower set point viral load compared to two animals that did not target any invariant regions. We found that MHC class II molecules restricted all four of the invariant peptide regions, while the two variable regions were restricted by MHC class I molecules. Therefore, in the absence of immunodominant CD8+ T cell responses that target variable regions during SIVmac239Δnef infection, individuals without 'protective' MHC alleles developed predominantly CD4+ T cell responses specific for invariant regions that may improve control of virus replication. Our results provide some evidence that antiviral CD4+ T cells during acute SIV infection can contribute to effective viral control and should be considered in strategies to combat HIV infection.

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