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Abstract Multiple lines of evidence support a role for CD8+ T cells in control of acute/early HIV replication; however, features of the primary HIV-specific CD8+ T cell response that may impact on the efficiency of containment of early viral replication remain poorly defined. In this study, we performed a novel, comprehensive analysis of the kinetics of expansion of components of the HIV-specific CD8+ T cell response in 21 acutely infected individuals. Epitope-specific T cell responses expanded asynchronously during primary infection in all subjects. The most rapidly expanded responses peaked as early as 5 days following symptomatic presentation and were typically of very limited epitope breadth. Responses of additional specificities expanded and contracted in subsequent waves, resulting in successive shifts in the epitope immunodominance hierarchy over time. Sequence variation and escape were temporally associated with the decline in magnitude of only a subset of T cell responses, suggesting that other factors such as Ag load and T cell exhaustion may play a role in driving the contraction of HIV-specific T cell responses. These observations document the preferential expansion of CD8+ T cells recognizing a subset of epitopes during the viral burst in acute HIV-1 infection and suggest that the nature of the initial, very rapidly expanded T cell response may influence the efficiency with which viral replication is contained in acute/early HIV infection.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of Immunology


The American Association of Immunologists

Publication Date





7131 - 7145