Propagation of CD4+ T cells specific for HIV type 1 envelope gp120 from chronically HIV type 1-infected subjects

Sandra Cohen, Michael Tuen, Catarina E. Hioe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses, in particular to the HIV envelope antigen gp120, are often undetectable in the peripheral blood of HIV-infected individuals. The failure to detect these cells poses a significant impediment to studying the T cell populations that are considered to be essential for controlling HIV infection and has led to speculation that these cells are entirely depleted during HIV infection. This study was designed to test whether gp120-specific CD4+ T cells exist in HIV-infected subjects and can be expanded from peripheral blood mononuclear cells by in vitro stimulation with the gp120 antigen, allowing better characterization of these cells. Although gp120-specific T cell responses were barely observed in patient cells ex vivo before antigenic stimulation, CD4+ T cells specific for gp120 were successfully propagated from the blood of each asymptomatic chronically HIV-infected subject studied. The dominant epitopes recognized by gp120-specific CD4+ T cells from these HIV-infected subjects were mapped to well-conserved sites in the C1 and C2 domains of gp120. Two CD4+ T cell lines recognizing these two regions were subsequently established. The CD4+ T cell lines proliferated and produced interferon γ in response to the specific epitopes, and the responses were MHC class II restricted. These T cell lines also exhibited cross-reactivity with gp120 from T cell line-adapted HIV-1 strains IIIB and MN, as well as with gp120 from primary isolates SF33 (subtype B), CA1 (subtype A), and CA10 (subtype A/E). The data demonstrate that CD4+ T cells specific for gp120 are not entirely depleted from the peripheral blood of chronically HIV-infected subjects; these cells are present in low numbers but can be expanded after antigenic stimulation in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-806
Number of pages14
JournalAIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


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