The importance of a broad CD8 T lymphocyte (CD8-TL) immune response to HIV is unknown. Ex vivo measurements of immunological activity directed at a limited number of defined epitopes provide an incomplete portrait of the actual immune response. We examined viral loads in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-homozygous and MHC-heterozygous Mauritian cynomolgus macaques. Chronic viremia in MHC-homozygous macaques was 80 times that in MHC-heterozygous macaques. Virus from MHChomozygous macaques accumulated 11 to 14 variants, consistent with escape from CD8-TL responses after 1 year of SIV infection. The pattern of mutations detected in MHC-heterozygous macaques suggests that their epitopespecific CD8-TL responses are a composite of those present in their MHC-homozygous counterparts. These results provide the clearest example of MHC heterozygote advantage among individuals infected with the same immunodeficiency virus strain, suggesting that broad recognition of multiple CD8-TL epitopes should be a key feature of HIV vaccines.
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