High polymorphism rates in well-known T cell epitopes restricted by protective HLA alleles during HIV infection are associated with rapid disease progression in early-infected MSM in China.
He C., Han X., Zhang H., Jiang F., An M., Zhao B., Ding H., Zhang Z., Dong T., Shang H.
T cell epitopes restricted by several protective HLA alleles, such as B*57, B*5801, B*27, B*51 and B*13, have been very well defined over the past two decades. We investigated 32 well-known T cell epitopes restricted by protective HLA molecules among 54 Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) at the early stage of HIV-1 infection. Subjects in our cohort carrying protective HLA types did not exhibit slow CD4 T cell count decline (P = 0.489) or low viral load set points (P = 0.500). Variations occurred in 96.88% (31/32) of the known wild-type epitopes (rate 1.85-100%), and the variation rates of the strains of two CRF01_AE lineages were significantly higher than those of non-CRF01_AE strains (76.82% vs. 48.96%, P = 0.004; 71.27% vs. 8.96%, P = 0.025). Subjects infected with CRF01_AE exhibited relatively rapid disease progression (P = 0.035). Therefore, the lack of wild-type protective T cell epitopes restricted by classic protective HLA alleles in CRF01_AE HIV-1 strains may be one of the reasons why rapid disease progression is observed in Chinese MSM with HIV-1 infection.