A comprehensive understanding of host factors modulated by the antiviral cytokine interferon-α (IFNα) is imperative for harnessing its beneficial effects while avoiding its detrimental side-effects during HIV infection. Cytokines modulate host glycosylation which plays a critical role in mediating immunological functions. However, the impact of IFNα on host glycosylation has never been characterized.
We assessed the impact of pegylated IFNα2a on IgG glycome, as well as CD8 T and NK cell-surface glycomes, of 18 HIV-infected individuals on suppressive antiretroviral therapy. We linked these glycomic signatures to changes in inflammation, CD8 T and NK cell phenotypes, and HIV DNA.
We identified significant interactions that support a model in which a) IFNα increases the proportion of pro-inflammatory, bisecting GlcNAc glycans (known to enhance FcγR binding) within the IgG glycome, which in turn b) increases inflammation, which c) leads to poor CD8 T cell phenotypes and poor IFNα-mediated reduction of HIV DNA. Examining cell-surface glycomes, IFNα increases levels of the immunosuppressive GalNAc-containing glycans (T/Tn antigens) on CD8 T cells. This induction is associated with lower HIV-gag-specific CD8 T cell functions. Last, IFNα increases levels of fucose on NK cells. This induction is associated with higher NK functions upon K562 stimulation.
IFNα causes host glycomic alterations that are known to modulate immunological responses. These alterations are associated with both detrimental and beneficial consequences of IFNα. Manipulating host glycomic interactions may represent a strategy for enhancing the positive effects of IFNα while avoiding its detrimental side-effects.
NIH grants R21AI143385, U01AI110434.

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