Persistence of activated and adaptive-like NK cells in HIV+ individuals despite 2 Years of suppressive combination antiretroviral therapy

Anna C. Hearps, Paul A. Agius, Jingling Zhou, Samantha Brunt, Mkunde Chachage, Thomas A Angelovich, Paul U. Cameron, Michelle Giles, Patricia Price, Julian Elliott, Anthony Jaworowski

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Innate immune dysfunction persists in HIV+ individuals despite effective combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). We recently demonstrated that an adaptive-like CD56dim NK cell population lacking the signal transducing protein FcRγ is expanded in HIV+ individuals. Here, we analyzed a cohort of HIV+ men who have sex with men (MSM, n = 20) at baseline and following 6, 12, and 24 months of cART and compared them with uninfected MSM (n = 15) to investigate the impact of cART on NK cell dysfunction. Proportions of NK cells expressing markers of early (CD69+) and late (HLA-DR+/CD38+) activation were elevated in cART-naïve HIV+ MSM (p = 0.004 and 0.015, respectively), as were FcRγ- NK cells (p = 0.003). Using latent growth curve modeling, we show that cART did not reduce levels of FcRγ- NK cells (p = 0.115) or activated HLA-DR+/CD38+ NK cells (p = 0.129) but did reduce T cell and monocyte activation (p < 0.001 for all). Proportions of FcRγ- NK cells were not associated with NK cell, T cell, or monocyte activation, suggesting different factors drive CD56dim FcRγ- NK cell expansion and immune activation in HIV+ individuals. While proportions of activated CD69+ NK cells declined significantly on cART (p = 0.003), the rate was significantly slower than the decline of T cell and monocyte activation, indicating a reduced potency of cART against NK cell activation. Our findings indicate that 2 years of suppressive cART have no impact on CD56dim FcRγ- NK cell expansion and that NK cell activation persists after normalization of other immune parameters. This may have implications for the development of malignancies and co-morbidities in HIV+ individuals on cART.

Original languageEnglish
Article number731
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2017


  • Adaptive-like NK cell
  • Combination antiretroviral therapy
  • HIV
  • Immune activation
  • NK cell

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