Anti-CD4 antibodies have been documented in about 10-20% of HIV-infected patients. This autoimmune response could be triggered by increased CD4 processing and unveiling of hidden (cryptic) epitopes. Multiple markers of exposure to HIV have been described in exposed uninfected individuals. Here, we investigated the mechanisms underlying the generation of anti-CD4 antibodies in a cohort of 54 seronegative exposed uninfected individuals. We identified anti-CD4 antibodies above normal levels in 16 of 47 (34%) exposed uninfected subjects. The fine specificity of these antibodies was different in this cohort when compared with those found in HIV+ patients. This suggested the possibility of different mechanisms underlying the generation of anti-CD4 antibodies in these two groups. Indeed, in exposed uninfected subjects, we found circulating CD4 T cells specific for gp120, but not for CD4. In contrast, HIV-1-seropositive patients had peripheral blood T cells specific for both molecules. Noncovalent binding of gp120 to soluble CD4 enhanced activation of gp120-specific T lymphocytes in exposed uninfected subjects, but not in HIV+ subjects. Moreover, gp120-specific T cells isolated from exposed uninfected, but not from HIV+, subjects provided help for anti-CD4 antibody production by B cells pulsed with CD4-gp120 complex. We conclude that gp120-specific T cells are present in exposed uninfected individuals, and can provide intermolecular help for anti-CD4 antibody production. This mechanism is distinct from that found in HIV-1-seropositive patients and may play a protective role against HIV-1 infection in vivo.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 20 1997|
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