Elevated T Cell Counts And Rantes Expression In The Genital Mucosa Of Hiv-1-resistant Kenyan Commercial Sex Workers.
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The initial site of exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 during heterosexual transmission occurs in the genital tract. Although the majority of immunological studies have focused on the immune response to HIV-1 at the systemic level, our understanding of tissue-specific immunity is deficient. The goal of the present study was to characterize T cell populations found in the cervix of women shown to be resistant to infection by HIV-1. Levels of both systemic and cervical mucosal lymphocytes were compared between HIV-1-resistant, HIV-1-uninfected, and HIV-1-infected commercial sex workers (CSWs) as well as HIV-1-uninfected non-CSW control subjects at low risk for exposure. The HIV-1-resistant CSWs had increased cervical CD4+ and CD8+ T cell counts, compared with the HIV-1-uninfected CSWs; importantly, these increases were not reflected in the systemic lymphocyte compartment. There was a 2-fold increase in CD4+ T cell counts in the HIV-1-resistant CSWs, compared with both the HIV-1-infected and the HIV-1-uninfected CSWs. Expression of the HIV-1 coreceptors CCR5 and CXCR4 was also determined, and cytokine and beta chemokine levels in the genital mucosa were assessed. The HIV-1-resistant CSWs had a 10-fold increase in RANTES expression, compared with the HIV-1-uninfected CSWs. This is the first study to show elevated levels of beta chemokines and CD4+ T cells in the genital tracts of women who are exposed to HIV-1 and yet are uninfected.