Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 12438567
J. Virol. 2002 Dec;76(24):12414-22
HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are critical in controlling human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication. We present the evaluation of a gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma)-based enzyme linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay for the quantification of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells from HIV-infected children. We studied 20 HLA-A*0201-positive HIV-infected children. The IFN-gamma production in response to stimulation with two HLA-A*0201-restricted immunodominant CD8 epitopes (SLYNTVATL [SL9] in Gag and ILKEPVHGV [IV9] in Pol) was tested using the ELISPOT assay. The results were compared to labeling with the corresponding tetramers. Among the 20 children, 18 had detectable responses against the SL9 and/or the IV9 epitope using the ELISPOT assay (medians, 351 and 134 spot-forming cells/10(6) peripheral blood mononuclear cells, respectively). Comparison of results from the tetramer and ELISPOT assays suggests that only a fraction of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were able to produce IFN-gamma. Most importantly, we found that the frequencies of IFN-gamma-producing CD8+ T cells were positively correlated with the viral load whereas the frequencies of tetramer-binding CD8+ T cells were not. The high sensitivity of the ELISPOT assay and the fact that this functional assay provided information different from that of tetramer labeling support its use for measurement of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells. In conclusion, our results show that the ex vivo-activated IFN-gamma-producing HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell subset is dependent upon continuous antigenic stimulation.