Distinct patterns of peripheral HIV-1-specific interferon-γ responses in exposed HIV-1-seronegative individuals
It is unclear how human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1-specific immune responses in exposed seronegative (ESN) individuals differ from those in HIV-1-infected subjects. By use of overlapping peptides spanning Gag, Tat, Nef, Vif, Vpr, and Vpu, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from ESN individuals, their seropositive (SP) partners, and unexposed seronegative control subjects were screened for interferon- gamma production. Responses were more frequent (95.7% vs. 20%), of a higher magnitude (9-fold), and of wider breadth (median number of peptides recognized, 18 vs. 2.5) in SP than in ESN individuals. Peptides recognized by ESN individuals were less frequently recognized by their SP partners. SP subjects infrequently recognized peptides from Vif, and such responses were subdominant; among ESN individuals, this HIV-1 protein was most frequently recognized. Immunodominant peptides recognized by SP subjects tended to be from relatively conserved regions, whereas peptides recognized by ESN individuals were associated with slow disease progression.