Virology, Nebraska Center for



Qingsheng Li

Date of this Version



J Immunol. 2018 May 01; 200(9): 3180–3187




Individuals with chronic HIV-1 infection have an increased prevalence of autoreactive Abs. Many of the isolated HIV broadly neutralizing Abs from these individuals are also autoreactive. However, the underlying mechanism(s) that produce these autoreactive broadly neutralizing Abs remains largely unknown. The highly regulated coordination among B cells, T follicular helper (TFH) cells, and T follicular regulatory (TFR) cells in germinal centers (GCs) of peripheral lymphatic tissues (LTs) is essential for defense against pathogens while also restricting autoreactive responses. We hypothesized that an altered ratio of TFH/TFR cells in the GC contributes to the increased prevalence of autoreactive Abs in chronic HIV infection. We tested this hypothesis using a rhesus macaque (RM) SIV model. We measured the frequency of TFH cells, TFR cells, and GC B cells in LTs and anti-dsDNA and anti-phospholipid Abs from Indian RMs, with and without SIV infection. We found that the frequency of anti-dsDNA and antiphospholipid Abs was much higher in chronically infected RMs (83.3% [5/6] and 66.7% [4/6]) than in acutely infected RMs (33.3% [2/6] and 18.6% [1/6]) and uninfected RMs (0% [0/6] and 18.6% [1/6]). The increased ratio of TFH/TFR cells in SIV infection correlated with anti-dsDNA and anti-phospholipid autoreactive Ab levels, whereas the frequency of TFR cells alone did not correlate with the levels of autoreactive Abs. Our results provide direct evidence that the ratio of TFH/TFR cells in LTs is critical for regulating autoreactive Ab production in chronic SIV infection and possibly, by extension, in chronic HIV-1 infection.