Journal of virology 2017 07 2791(16) pii 10.1128/JVI.00441-17
Intact and broad immune cell effector functions and specific individual cytokines have been linked to HIV disease outcome, but their relative contribution to HIV control remains unclear. We asked whether the proteome of secreted cytokines and signaling factors in peripheral blood can be used to discover specific pathways critical for host viral control. A custom glass-based microarray, able to measure >600 plasma proteins involved in cell-to-cell communication, was used to measure plasma protein profiles in 96 HIV-infected, treatment-naive individuals with high (>50,000) or low (<10,000 HIV RNA copies/ml) viral loads. Univariate and regression model analysis demonstrate that plasma levels of soluble interleukin-27 (IL-27) are significantly elevated in individuals with high plasma viremia (P < 0.0001) and are positively correlated with proviral HIV-DNA copy numbers in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) (Rho = 0.4011; P = 0.0027). Moreover, soluble IL-27 plasma levels are negatively associated with the breadth and magnitude of the total virus-specific T-cell responses and directly with plasma levels of molecules involved in Wnt/β-catenin signaling. In addition to IL-27, gene expression levels of the specific IL-27 receptor (IL27RA) in PBMC correlated directly with both plasma viral load (Rho = 0.3531; P = 0.0218) and the proviral copy number in the peripheral blood as an indirect measure of partial viral reservoir (Rho = 0.4580; P = 0.0030). These results were validated in unrelated cohorts of early infected subjects as well as subjects before and after initiation of antiretroviral treatment, and they identify IL-27 and its specific receptor as a critical immune axis for the antiviral immune response and as robust correlates of viral load and proviral reservoir size in PBMC.IMPORTANCE The detailed knowledge of immune mechanisms that contribute to HIV control is a prerequisite for the design of effective treatment strategies to achieve HIV cure. Cells communicate with each other by secreting signaling proteins, and the blood is a key conduit for transporting such factors. Investigating the communication factors promoting effective immune responses and having potentially antiviral functions against HIV using a novel focused omics approach ("communicome") has the potential to significantly improve our knowledge of effective host immunity and accelerate the HIV cure agenda. Including 140 subjects with variable viral loads and measuring the plasma levels of >600 soluble proteins, our data highlight the importance of Th17 cells and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in HIV control and especially identify the IL-27/IL-27 receptor subunit alpha (IL-27RA) axis as a predictor of plasma viral load and proviral copy number in the peripheral blood. These data may provide important guidance to therapeutic approaches in the HIV cure agenda.