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Soluble immune checkpoints as correlates for HIV persistence and T cell function in people with HIV on antiretroviral therapy

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  • Chris Y. Chiu, University of Melbourne
  • ,
  • Maya D. Schou, University of Melbourne
  • ,
  • James H. McMahon, Monash University
  • ,
  • Steven G. Deeks, University of California at San Francisco
  • ,
  • Rémi Fromentin, University of Montreal
  • ,
  • Nicolas Chomont, University of Montreal
  • ,
  • Michelle N. Wykes, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
  • ,
  • Thomas A. Rasmussen
  • Sharon R. Lewin, University of Melbourne, Monash University

Introduction: In people with HIV (PWH) both off and on antiretroviral therapy (ART), the expression of immune checkpoint (IC) proteins is elevated on the surface of total and HIV-specific T-cells, indicating T-cell exhaustion. Soluble IC proteins and their ligands can also be detected in plasma, but have not been systematically examined in PWH. Since T-cell exhaustion is associated with HIV persistence on ART, we aimed to determine if soluble IC proteins and their ligands also correlated with the size of the HIV reservoir and HIV-specific T-cell function. Methods: We used multiplex bead-based immunoassay to quantify soluble programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), T cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain 3 (TIM-3), PD-1 Ligand 1 (PD-L1) and PD-1 Ligand 2 (PD-L2) in plasma from PWH off ART (n=20), on suppressive ART (n=75) and uninfected controls (n=20). We also quantified expression of membrane-bound IC and frequencies of functional T-cells to Gag and Nef peptide stimulation on CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells using flow cytometry. The HIV reservoir was quantified in circulating CD4+ T-cells using qPCR for total and integrated HIV DNA, cell-associated unspliced HIV RNA and 2LTR circles. Results: Soluble (s) PD-L2 level was higher in PWH off and on ART compared to uninfected controls. Higher levels of sPD-L2 correlated with lower levels of HIV total DNA and higher frequencies of gag-specific CD8+ T-cells expressing CD107a, IFNγ or TNFα. In contrast, the concentration of sLAG-3 was similar in uninfected individuals and PWH on ART, but was significantly elevated in PWH off ART. Higher levels of sLAG-3 correlated with higher levels of HIV total and integrated DNA, and lower frequency of gag-specific CD4+ T cells expressing CD107a. Similar to sLAG-3, levels of sPD-1 were elevated in PWH off ART and normalized in PWH on ART. sPD-1 was positively correlated with the frequency of gag-specific CD4+ T cells expressing TNF-a and the expression of membrane-bound PD-1 on total CD8+ T-cells in PWH on ART. Discussion: Plasma soluble IC proteins and their ligands correlate with markers of the HIV reservoir and HIV-specific T-cell function and should be investigated further in in large population-based studies of the HIV reservoir or cure interventions in PWH on ART.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1123342
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Chiu, Schou, McMahon, Deeks, Fromentin, Chomont, Wykes, Rasmussen and Lewin.

    Research areas

  • HIV, HIV reservoir, HIV-specific T-cell function, immune checkpoint blockade, immunotherapy, soluble immune checkpoint

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