DPhil student in Clinical Medicine
HIV-1 specific HLA-E-restricted CD8 T cells
Despite considerable success of effective therapeutic regimens, HIV infection is still a life-threatening disease that cannot be curable and preventable. Therefore, an efficient prophylactic vaccine is urgently needed. HLA-E is a non-classical MHC-Ib molecule that is characterized by ubiquitously low-level expression on the cell surface and highly conserved among humans, and the role of HLA-E was originally identified in immune tolerance. Recent studies in monkeys have demonstrated that a rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) vectored simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) vaccine protects more than 50 percent of monkeys upon highly pathogenic SIV challenge, providing the prior evidence of HIV specific CD8 T cell immune responses against MHC-E-restricted HIV/SIV peptides. The protection far better than any previous vaccines and is uniquely mediated by CD8 T cells that see SIV peptides presented by the monkey equivalent of HLA-E, called Mamu-E. The work is to delve into the existence of human CD8 T cells specific for HIV peptides bound to HLA-E and their preferentially functional profile, and then to examine the factors influencing HLA-E restricted antigen presentation process.