Gastrointestinal T lymphocytes are critical for mucosal immunity and HIV pathogenesis, yet little is known about normal T cell numbers and phenotypes in different regions of the gut, or the degree to which ART can restore levels to those of HIV-uninfected individuals. To investigate these questions, we measured T cell frequencies and markers of memory, activation, anergy, and homing in the blood, ileum, and rectum of HIV- and ART-suppressed HIV+ adults. In HIV- individuals, T cell frequencies and phenotypes differed significantly between sites. Compared to HIV- adults, HIV+ adults had lower absolute CD4+T cell counts in the ileal lamina propria and lower relative CD4+T cell counts in the blood and ileum. In the gut, HIV+ adults had a higher proportion of CD38+ CD4+T cells, a lower proportion of terminally-differentiated effector cells, and, in the rectum, a higher proportion of CTLA-4+ CD4+T cells. In HIV+ individuals, relative CD4+T cell numbers in the ileum correlated with the proportion of CTLA-4+ CD4+T cells, whereas in the rectum, they tended to correlate with the proportion of circulating CD4+T cells expressing α4β7 or CCR6. Mechanisms of T cell reconstitution may differ throughout the gut, with homing contributing more in the rectum while ileal reconstitution is associated with mucosal CD4+T cell anergy.
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