Memory CD4(+)CCR5(+) T cells are abundantly present in the gut of newborn infants to facilitate mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1

Madeleine J. Bunders, Chris M. van der Loos, Paul L. Klarenbeek, John L. van Hamme, Kees Boer, Jim C. H. Wilde, Niek de Vries, Rene A. W. van Lier, Neeltje Kootstra, Steven T. Pals, Taco W. Kuijpers

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Despite potential clinical importance, target cells for mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 have not yet been identified. Cord blood-derived CD4(+) T cells are largely naive and do not express CCR5, the mandatory coreceptor for transmitted HIV-1 R5 strains in infants. In the present study, we demonstrate that in the human fetal and infant gut mucosa, there is already a large subset of mucosal memory CD4(+)CCR5(+) T cells with predominantly a Th1 and Th17 phenotype. Using next-generation sequencing of the TCR beta chain, clonally expanded T cells as a hallmark for memory development predominated in the gut mucosa (30%), whereas few were found in the lymph nodes (1%) and none in cord blood (0%). The gut mucosal fetal and infant CD4(+) T cells were highly susceptible to HIV-1 without any prestimulation; pol proviral DNA levels were similar to infected phytohemagglutinin-stimulated adult PBMCs. In conclusion, in the present study, we show that extensive adaptive immunity is present before birth and the gut mucosa is the preferential site for memory CD4(+) T cells. These CD4(+)CCR5(+) T cells in the infant mucosa provide a large pool of susceptible cells for ingested HIV-1 at birth and during breastfeeding, indicating a mucosal route of mother-to-child transmission that can be targeted in prevention strategies. (Blood. 2012;120(22):4383-4390)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4383-4390
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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