Journal of virology 2018 04 11() pii 10.1128/JVI.02100-17
CD8 cells play a key role in HIV/SIV infection, but their specific mechanism(s) of action in controlling the virus are unclear. 2-LTR circles are extrachromosomal products generated upon failed integration of HIV/SIV. To understand the specific effects of CD8 cells on infected cells, we analyzed the dynamics of 2-LTR circles in SIVmac251-infected rhesus macaques (RM) treated with an integrase inhibitor (INT). Twenty RMs underwent CD8 cell depletion, received RAL monotherapy or a combination of both. Blood, lymph nodes (LNs) and gut biopsies were routinely sampled. Plasma viral loads (pVLs) and 2-LTR circles from PBMCs and LN lymphocytes were measured with qRT-PCR. In the CD8 depletion group, an ∼1 log increase in pVLs and a slow increase in PBMC 2-LTRs occurred following depletion. In the INT group, a strong decline in pVLs upon treatment initiation and no change in 2-LTR levels were observed. In the INT and CD8 cell depletion group, a similar increase in pVLs following CD8 depletion was observed, with a modest decline following INT initiation, and 2-LTR circles significantly increased in PBMCs and LNs. Analyzing the 2-LTR data across all treatment groups with a mathematical model indicates that the data best supports an effect of CD8 cells in killing cells prior to viral integration. Sensitivity analyses of these results confirm that effect, but also allow for additional effects, which the data does not discriminate well. Overall, we show that INT does not significantly increase the levels of 2-LTR circles. However, CD8 cell depletion increases the 2-LTR levels, which are enhanced in the presence of an INT.CD8 T cells play an essential role in controlling HIV and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection, but the specific mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. Due to failed viral infection, HIV and SIV can form 2-LTR extrachromosomal circles that can be quantified. We present novel data on the dynamics of these 2-LTR forms in a SIV-infected macaque model under three different treatment conditions: depletion of CD8 cells; administration of the integrase inhibitor in a monotherapy, which favors the formation of 2-LTR circles; and combination of the two treatments. We used a new mathematical model to help interpret the data, and the results suggest that CD8 cells exert a killing effect on infected cells prior to virus integration. These results provide new insights into the mechanisms of action of CD8 cells in SIV infection. Confirmation of our results would be an important step in understanding immune control of HIV.