In chronic infection, HIV gag-specific CD4+T cell receptor diversity is higher than CD8+T cell receptor diversity and is associated with less HIV quasispecies diversity

Mark A. Pilkinton, Wyatt J. McDonnell, Louise Barnett, Abha Chopra, Rama Gangula, Katie D. White, Shay Leary, Jennifer Currenti, Silvana Gaudieri, Simon A. Mallal, Spyros A. Kalams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cellular immune responses to Gag correlate with improved HIV control. The full extent of cellular immune responses comprises both the number of epitopes recognized by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and the diversity of the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire directed against each epitope. The optimal diversity of the responsive TCR repertoire is unclear. Therefore, we evaluated the TCR diversity of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells responding to HIV-1 Gag to determine if TCR diversity correlates with clinical or virologic metrics. Previous studies of TCR repertoires have been limited primarily to CD8+ T cell responses directed against a small number of well-characterized T cell epitopes restricted by specific human leukocyte antigens. We stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 21 chronic HIV-infected individuals overnight with a pool of HIV-1 Gag peptides, followed by sorting of activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and TCR deep sequencing. We found Gag-reactive CD8+ T cells to be more oligoclonal, with a few dominant TCRs comprising the bulk of the repertoire, compared with the highly diverse TCR repertoires of Gag-reactive CD4+ T cells. HIV sequencing of the same donors revealed that high CD4+ T cell TCR diversity was strongly associated with lower HIV Gag genetic diversity. We conclude that the TCR repertoire of Gag-reactive CD4+ T helper cells displays substantial diversity without a clearly dominant circulating TCR clonotype, in contrast to a hierarchy of dominant TCR clonotypes in the Gag-reactive CD8+ T cells, and may serve to limit HIV diversity during chronic infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02380
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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