T cell immune discriminants of HIV reservoir size in a pediatric cohort of perinatally infected individuals

Stefano Rinaldi, Lesley de Armas, Sara Dominguez-Rodríguez, Suresh Pallikkuth, Vinh Dinh, Li Pan, Kathleen Gärtner, Rajendra Pahwa, Nicola Cotugno, Pablo Rojo, Eleni Nastouli, Nigel Klein, Caroline Foster, Anita de Rossi, Carlo Giaquinto, Paolo Rossi, Paolo Palma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The size of the latent HIV reservoir is associated with the timing of therapeutic interventions and overall health of the immune system. Here, we demonstrate that T cell phenotypic signatures associate with viral reservoir size in a cohort of HIV vertically infected children and young adults under durable viral control, and who initiated anti-retroviral therapy (ART) <2 years old. Flow cytometry was used to measure expression of immune activation (IA), immune checkpoint (ICP) markers, and intracellular cytokine production after stimulation with GAG peptides in CD4 and CD8 T cells from cross-sectional peripheral blood samples. We also evaluated the expression of 96 genes in sort-purified total CD4 and CD8 T cells along with HIV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells using a multiplexed RT-PCR approach. As a measure of HIV reservoir, total HIV-DNA quantification by real-time PCR was performed. Poisson regression modeling for predicting reservoir size using phenotypic markers revealed a signature that featured frequencies of PD-1+CD4 T cells, TIGIT+CD4 T cells and HIV-specific (CD40L+) CD4 T cells as important predictors and it also shows that time of ART initiation strongly affects their association with HIV-DNA. Further, gene expression analysis showed that the frequencies of PD-1+CD4 T cells associated with a CD4 T cell molecular profile skewed toward an exhausted Th1 profile. Our data provide a link between immune checkpoint molecules and HIV persistence in a pediatric cohort as has been demonstrated in adults. Frequencies of PD-1+ and TIGIT+CD4 T cells along with the frequency of HIV-specific CD4 T cells could be associated with the mechanism of viral persistence and may provide insight into potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009533
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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