Strategies to cure HIV-1-infection require the eradication of viral reservoirs. An innovative approach for boosting the cytotoxic T lymphocyte response is the transfer of T-cell receptors (TCRs). Previously, we have shown that electroporation of TCR-encoding mRNA is able to reprogram CD8 T-cells derived from healthy donors. So far, it is unknown whether the transfer of HIV-1-specific TCRs is capable to reprogram CD8 T-cells of HIV-1-infected patients. To assess the efficiency of TCR-transfer by mRNA electroporation and the functionality of reprogrammed T-cells in HIV-1-infected patients, we performed an in vitro analysis of TCR-transfer into T-cells from HIV-1-infected patients in various stages of disease and from healthy controls.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 16 HIV-1-infected patients (nine HLA-A*02-positive, seven HLA-A*02-negative) and from five healthy controls were electroporated with mRNA-constructs encoding TCRs specific for the HLA-A*02/HIV-1-gag p17 epitope SLYNTVATL (SL9). Functionality of the TCRs was measured by γIFN-ELISpot assays.
SL9/TCR transfection into peripheral blood mononuclear cells from both HLA-A*02-positive and HLA-A*02-negative HIV-1-infected patients and from healthy blood donors reprogrammed T-cells for recognition of SL9-presenting HLA-A*02-positive cells in γIFN-ELISpot assays. SL9/TCR-transfer into T-cells from an immunodeficient AIDS patient could induce recognition of SL9-expressing target cells only after reversion of T-cell dysfunction by antiretroviral therapy.
The transfer of HIV-1-p17-specific TCRs into T-cells is functional both in HIV-1-infected patients as well as in healthy blood donors. TCR-transfer is a promising method to boost the immune system against HIV-1.