Mucosal immunology 2016 11 1610(4) 996-1007 doi 10.1038/mi.2016.97
Most HIV transmissions among men who have sex with men (MSM), the group that accounted for 67% of new US infections in 2014, occur via exposure to the rectal mucosa. However, it is unclear how the act of condomless receptive anal intercourse (CRAI) may alter the mucosal immune environment in HIV-negative MSM. Here, we performed a comprehensive characterization of the rectal mucosal immune environment for the phenotype and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by CD4 and CD8 T cells, global transcriptomic analyses, and the composition of microbiota in HIV-negative MSM. Our results show that compared with men who had never engaged in anal intercourse, the rectal mucosa of MSM engaging in CRAI has a distinct phenotype characterized by higher levels of Th17 cells, greater CD8+ T cell proliferation and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecular signatures associated with mucosal injury and repair likely mediated by innate immune cells, and a microbiota enriched for the Prevotellaceae family. These data provide a high-resolution model of the immunological, molecular, and microbiological perturbations induced by CRAI, will have direct utility in understanding rectal HIV transmission among MSM, and will enhance the design of future biomedical prevention interventions, including candidate HIV vaccines.