Despite repeated exposure HIV-1, certain individuals remain persistently uninfected. Such exposed uninfected (EU) people show evidence of HIV-1- specific T cell immunity and, in rate cases, selective resistance to infection by macrophage-tropic strains of HIV-1. The latter has been associated with a 32-base pair deletion in the C-C chemokine receptor gene CCR-5, the major coreceptor of macrophage-tropic strains of HIV-1. We have undertaken an analysis of the HIV-specific T cell responses in 12 EU individuals who were either homozygous for the wild-type CCR-5 allele or heterozygous for the deletion allele (CCR-5Δ32). We have found evidence of an oligoclonal T cell response mediated by helper T cells specific for a conserved region of the HIV-1 envelope. These cells produce very high levels of C-C chemokines when stimulated by the specific antigen and suppress selectively the replication of macrophage-tropic, but not T cell-tropic, strains of HIV-1. These chemokine-producing helper cells may be part of a protective immune response that could be potentially exploited for vaccine development.
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