Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infections are characterized by dramatic alterations in the mucosal CD4 T cell compartment. Though viremia is effectively suppressed, and peripheral CD4 T cell numbers recover to near healthy levels after highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), some of the dysfunctional consequences of HIV infection continue to persist during therapy. We hypothesized that CD4 T follicular helper (Tfh) cell deficiencies may play a role in this process. Using the macaque model we show that SIV infection was associated with a significant loss of Tfh cells in the GALT that drain the mesentery lining the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Loss of Tfh cells significantly correlated with the depletion of the overall memory CD4 T cell compartment; most Tfh cells in the GALT expressed a CD95+CD28+ memory phenotype suggesting that infection of the memory compartment likely drives the loss of GALT Tfh cells during infection. Continuous anti-retroviral therapy (cART) was accompanied by a significant repopulation of Tfh cells in the GALT to levels similar to those of uninfected animals. Repopulating Tfh cells displayed significantly higher capacity to produce IL-21 as compared to SIV infected animals suggesting that cART fully restores Tfh cells that are functionally capable of supporting GC reactions in the GALT.
Published by Elsevier Inc.