IL-7 therapy has been evaluated in patients who do not regain normal CD4 T cell counts after virologically successful antiretroviral therapy. IL-7 increases total circulating CD4 and CD8 T cell counts; however, its effect on HIV-specific CD8 T cells has not been fully examined. TRAF1, a prosurvival signaling adaptor required for 4-1BB-mediated costimulation, is lost from chronically stimulated virus-specific CD8 T cells with progression of HIV infection in humans and during chronic lymphocytic choriomeningitis infection in mice. Previous results showed that IL-7 can restore TRAF1 expression in virus-specific CD8 T cells in mice, rendering them sensitive to anti-4-1BB agonist therapy. In this article, we show that IL-7 therapy in humans increases the number of circulating HIV-specific CD8 T cells. For a subset of patients, we also observed an increased frequency of TRAF1+ HIV-specific CD8 T cells 10 wk after completion of IL-7 treatment. IL-7 treatment increased levels of phospho-ribosomal protein S6 in HIV-specific CD8 T cells, suggesting increased activation of the metabolic checkpoint kinase mTORC1. Thus, IL-7 therapy in antiretroviral therapy-treated patients induces sustained changes in the number and phenotype of HIV-specific T cells.
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