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Interferon gamma (IFN-γ) negative CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells can produce immune mediators in response to viral antigens

Nakiboneka, Ritah, Mugaba, Susan, Auma, Betty O., Kintu, Christopher, Lindan, Christina, Nanteza, Mary Bridget, Kaleebu, Pontiano, Serwanga, Jennifer
Vaccine 2019 v.37 no.1 pp. 113-122
Adenoviridae, CD8-positive T-lymphocytes, HIV infections, HIV long-term survivors, Human immunodeficiency virus 1, flow cytometry, immunogenicity, interferon-gamma, interleukin-2, phenotype, secretion, staining, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, vaccines, viral antigens
Evaluation of antigen-specific T-cell responses to viral antigens is frequently performed on IFN-γ secreting cells. However, T-cells are capable of producing many more functions than just IFN-γ, some of which, like Perforin, are associated with immune protection in HIV-1 disease elite controllers. We evaluated the extent of missed T-cell functions when IFN-γ secretion is used as a surrogate marker for further evaluation of T-cell functions. Intracellular cytokine staining assay and flow cytometry were used to assess peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 31 HIV-infected ART-naive individuals for the extent to which gated CD4+ and CD8+ IFN-γ producing and non-producing T-cells also secreted IL-2, Perforin, and TNF-α functions. Similarly, the extent of missed virus-specific responses in IFN-γ ELISpot assay negative T-cells from 5 HIV-1 uninfected individuals was evaluated. Cells from HIV-infected individuals were stimulated with pooled consensus group M (Con M) peptides; and those from healthy individuals were stimulated with pooled adenovirus (Ad) peptides. Overall, frequencies of virus-specific IFN-γ secreting CD4+ and CD8+ cells were low. Proportions of IFN-γ negative CD4+ expressing IL-2, Perforin, or TNF-α to Con M were significantly higher (5 of 7 functional profiles) than the corresponding IFN-γ positive CD4+ (0 of 7) T-cell phenotype, p = 0.02; Fisher’s Exact test. Likewise, proportions of CD8+ T-cells expressing other functions were significantly higher in 4 of the 7 IFN-γ negative CD8+ T-cells. Notably, newly stimulated Perforin, identified as Perforin co-expression with IL-2 or TNF-α, was significantly higher in IFN-γ negative CD8+ T-cell than in the positive CD8+ T-cells. Using SEB, lower responses in IFN-γ positive cells were most associated with CD4+ than CD8+ T-cells. These findings suggest that studies evaluating immunogenicity in response to HIV and Adenovirus viral antigens should not only evaluate T-cell responsiveness among IFN-γ producing cells but also among those T-cells that do not express IFN-γ.