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posted on 12.04.2021, 04:38 by Ann W.N. Auma, Carey L. Shive, Alyssa Lange, Sofi Damjanovska, Corinne Kowal, Elizabeth Zebrowski, Pushpa Pandiyan, Brigid Wilson, Robert C. Kalayjian, David H. Canaday, Donald D. Anthony
Background

The mechanisms underlying naïve CD4+ lymphopenia during chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection are unclear. Whether direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy restores peripheral naïve CD4+ T cell numbers and function is unknown.

Methods

We enumerated frequencies and counts of peripheral naïve CD4+, CD4+CD31+ and CD4+CD31- T cells by flow cytometry in a cross sectional analysis comparing chronic HCV infected (n=34), DAA-treated(n=29), and age-range matched controls (n=25), as well as in a longitudinal cohort of HCV DAA treated persons (n=16). The cross-sectional cohort was stratified by cirrhosis state. Cell apoptosis/survival (AnnexinV+7AAD+/BCL-2 labeling) and cell cycle entry (Ki67 expression) of CD31+ and CD31- naïve CD4+ T cells was analyzed directly ex vivo and following 3 and 5 days of in vitro culture with media, interleukin (IL) -7 or CD3/CD28 activator.

Results

In the cross-sectional cohort, naïve CD4+ proportions were lower in chronic HCV infected persons compared to controls and DAA-treated persons, an effect in part attributed to cirrhosis. Age was associated with naïve cell counts and proportions in HCV infected and treated persons as well. Naïve CD4+ cell proportions negatively correlated with plasma levels of soluble CD14 following therapy in DAA-treated persons. Naïve CD4+ cells from HCV infected persons exhibited greater direct ex vivo apoptosis and cell-cycling compared to cells from DAA-treated persons and controls, and this was localized to the CD4+CD31+ subset. On the other hand, no remarkable differences in expression of BCL-2 or IL-7 Receptor (CD127) at baseline or following in vitro media or IL7 containing culture were observed. In the longitudinal cohort, naïve CD4+CD31+/CD31- ratio tended to increase 24 weeks after DAA therapy initiation.

Conclusions

Activation and apoptosis of peripheral naïve CD4+CD31+ T cells appear to contribute to naïve CD4+ lymphopenia in chronic HCV infection, and this defect is partially reversible with HCV DAA therapy. Age and cirrhosis -associated naïve CD4+ lymphopenia is present both before and after HCV DAA therapy. These findings have implications for restoration of host immune function after DAA therapy.

History

References