Persistence of HIV through integration into host DNA in CD4+ T cells presents a major barrier to virus eradication. Viral integration may be curtailed when CD8+ T cells are triggered to kill infected CD4+ T cells through recognition of histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I-bound peptides derived from incoming virions. However, this has been reported only in individuals with "beneficial" HLA alleles that are associated with superior HIV control. Through interrogation of the pre-integration immunopeptidome, we obtain proof of early presentation of a virion-derived HLA-A∗02:01-restricted epitope, FLGKIWPSH (FH9), located in Gag Spacer Peptide 2 (SP2). FH9-specific CD8+ T cell responses are detectable in individuals with primary HIV infection and eliminate HIV-infected CD4+ T cells prior to virus production in vitro. Our data show that non-beneficial HLA class I alleles can elicit an effective antiviral response through early presentation of HIV virion-derived epitopes and also demonstrate the importance of SP2 as an immune target.
Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7FZ, UK; National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford OX4 2PG, UK; Research In Viral Eradication of Reservoirs (RIVER) trial study group. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research in Viral Eradication of Reservoirs (RIVER) trial study group