Nicholas KJ, Zern EK, Barnett L, Smith RM, Lorey SL, Copeland CA, Sadagopal S, Kalams SA. B cell responses to HIV antigen are a potent correlate of viremia in HIV-1 infection and improve with PD-1 blockade. PloS one. 8(8). e84185. PMID: 24358343 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3865293
Infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) induces defects of both cellular and humoral immune responses. Impaired CD4+ T cell help and B cell dysfunction may partially explain the low frequency of broadly neutralizing antibodies in HIV-infected individuals. To understand the extent of B cell dysfunction during HIV infection, we assessed the level of B cell activation at baseline and after stimulation with a variety of antigens. Increased levels of viremia were associated with higher baseline expression of the activation marker CD86 on B cells and with decreased ability of B cells to increase expression of CD86 after in vitro stimulation with inactivated HIV-1. In a series of cell isolation experiments B cell responses to antigen were enhanced in the presence of autologous CD4+ T cells. HIV infected individuals had a higher frequency of PD-1 expression on B cells compared to HIV- subjects and PD-1 blockade improved B cell responsiveness to HIV antigen, suggesting that inhibitory molecule expression during HIV-1 infection may contribute to some of the observed B cell defects. Our findings demonstrate that during chronic HIV infection, B cells are activated and lose full capacity to respond to antigen, but suppression of inhibitory pressures as well as a robust CD4+ T cell response may help preserve B cell function.