Persistence of Activated and Adaptive-Like NK Cells in HIV+ Individuals despite 2 Years of Suppressive Combination Antiretroviral Therapy
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Innate immune dysfunction persists in HIV + individuals despite effective combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). We recently demonstrated that an adaptive-like CD56 dim NK cell population lacking the signal transducing protein FcR? 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 FcR?- NK cells (p = 0.003). Using latent growth curve modeling, we show that cART did not reduce levels of FcR?- 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 FcR?- NK cells were not associated with NK cell, T cell, or monocyte activation, suggesting different factors drive CD56 dim FcR?- 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 CD56 dim FcR?- 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.
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