Autologous stem-cell transplantation disrupts adaptive immune responses during rebound SHIV viremia.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of virology (2017)


Primary HIV-1 infection induces a virus-specific adaptive/cytolytic immune response that impacts plasma viral load setpoint and rate of progression to AIDS. Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) suppresses plasma viremia to undetectable levels that rebound upon cART treatment interruption. Following cART withdrawal, the memory component of the virus-specific adaptive immune response may improve viral control compared to primary infection. Here, using primary infection and treatment interruption data from macaques infected with simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV), we observe lower peak viral load but unchanged viral setpoint during viral rebound. The addition of an autologous stem-cell transplant before cART withdrawal alters viral dynamics: we find a higher rebound setpoint but similar peak viral loads compared to primary infection. Mathematical modeling of the data that accounts for fundamental immune parameters achieves excellent fit to heterogeneous viral loads. Analysis of model output suggests that the rapid memory immune response following treatment interruption does not ultimately lead to better viral containment. Transplantation decreases the durability of the adaptive immune response following cART withdrawal and viral rebound. Our model's results highlight the impact of the endogenous adaptive immune response during primary SHIV infection. Moreover, because we capture adaptive immune memory and the impact of transplantation, this model will provide insight into further studies of cure strategies inspired by the Berlin patient.Importance: HIV patients who interrupt combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) eventually experience viral rebound, the return of viral loads to pre-treatment levels. However, the "Berlin patient" remains free of HIV rebound over a decade after stopping cART. His cure is attributed to leukemia treatment that included an HIV-resistant stem cell transplant. Inspired by this case, we studied the impact of stem-cell transplantation in a macaque simian/HIV (SHIV) system. Using a mechanistic mathematical model, we found that while primary infection generates an adaptive immune memory response, stem cell transplantation disrupts this learned immunity. The results have implications for HIV cure regimens based on stem-cell transplantation.