Mechanisms of immune regulation in HIV disease

Yih Lim

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] HIV infection compromises the ability of the host to mount effective immune responses. In untreated HIV disease, immune activation drives high rates of cell turnover and apoptosis, ultimately leading to abnormal and dysregulated cellular function. Immune activation may also induce the expansion of CD4+ regulatory T (Treg) cell populations capable of suppressing anti-HIV responses. Treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) allows the recovery of CD4+ T cell numbers in most patients. Persistent deficiencies in the number and function of CD4+ T cells seen in a proportion of individuals may reflect elevated numbers of Treg cells or an imbalanced regulatory-to-effector cytokine milieu. Furthermore, some patients develop paradoxical illnesses associated with the recovery of cellular function, known as immune restoration disease (IRD). The first part of this thesis addresses the role of CD4+ Treg cells in untreated and treated HIV disease. The second part addresses the phenotype of immune cells that express IL-10 and its receptor in untreated and treated patients, and the role of IL-10 in mycobacterial IRD. Firstly, several cell surface markers were evaluated to find a flow cytometry assay that could be used routinely to identify CD4+ Treg cells in HIV-infected patients. I tested CD25, GITR, CTLA-4, NRP-1 and LAG-3, but their expression did not mirror the expression of FoxP3, an intracellular transcription factor specific to CD4+ Treg cells (Chapter 2). Two published studies then described the use of CD127 to identify CD4+FoxP3+ Treg cells in humans. Using CD127, I determined the proportions and numbers of CD4+ Treg cells in untreated HIV-infected patients and in patients in their first year of ART. Proportions of CD4+ Treg cells correlated with the proportions of activated (HLA-DRHI) CD4+ T cells and with plasma HIV RNA levels in untreated patients, but showed an inverse correlation with CD4+ T cell count. In both untreated and treated patients, the proportions and numbers of FoxP3+ cells that expressed CD8 were significantly higher than in uninfected donors. This was clearest in patients with CD4+ T cell counts below 300/'L (Chapter 3). This body of work suggests that the frequencies of CD4+ Treg cells are directly related to the level of HIV-associated immune activation. Phenotyping of FoxP3+CD4+ Treg cells in untreated and treated patients and in uninfected donors revealed that co-expression of CD45RO, CD28, CTLA-4 and markers of activation were similar in all HIV-infected patients and controls. ii FoxP3+CD8+ T cells exhibit lower levels of CD45RO, CD28 and CTLA-4, but higher expression of PD-1 and CD57 (Chapter 4). This suggests that FoxP3+CD8+ T cells may have a reduced functional capacity. It is unclear whether they have regulatory activity by virtue of FoxP3 expression. ... Both patients produced higher levels of IFN? compared with IL-10 in response to mycobacterial antigens. In contrast, patients who experienced uneventful immune reconstitution produced higher levels of IL-10 (Chapter 6). Part 1 of this thesis highlights the importance of using specific cellular markers to identify CD4+ Treg cells, and confirms CD127 as a valuable marker for routine monitoring of blood Treg cells. Part 2 of this thesis demonstrates the important regulatory role of IL-10 in patients receiving ART.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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