An understanding of the mechanism(s) by which some individuals spontaneously control human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV)/simian immunodeficiency virus replication may aid vaccine design. Approximately 50% of Indian rhesus macaques that express the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I allele Mamu-B*08 become elite controllers after infection with simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239. Mamu-B*08 has a binding motif that is very similar to that of HLA-B27, a human MHC class I allele associated with the elite control of HIV, suggesting that SIVmac239-infected Mamu-B*08-positive (Mamu-B*08+) animals may be a good model for the elite control of HIV. The association with MHC class I alleles implicates CD8+ T cells and/or natural killer cells in the control of viral replication. We therefore introduced point mutations into eight Mamu-B*08-restricted CD8+ T-cell epitopes to investigate the contribution of epitope-specific CD8+ T-cell responses to the development of the control of viral replication. Ten Mamu-B*08+ macaques were infected with this mutant virus, 8X-SIVmac239. We compared immune responses and viral loads of these animals to those of wild-type SIVmac239-infected Mamu-B*08+ macaques. The five most immunodominant Mamu-B*08-restricted CD8+ T-cell responses were barely detectable in 8X-SIVmac239-infected animals. By 48 weeks postinfection, 2 of 10 8X-SIVmac239-infected Mamu-B*08+ animals controlled viral replication to <20,000 viral RNA (vRNA) copy equivalents (eq)/ml plasma, while 10 of 15 wild-type-infected Mamu-B*08+ animals had viral loads of <20,000 vRNA copy eq/ml (P = 0.04). Our results suggest that these epitope-specific CD8+ T-cell responses may play a role in establishing the control of viral replication in Mamu-B*08+ macaques.
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