Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is an early target of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and a site for severe CD4+ T-cell depletion. Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) is effective in suppressing HIV replication and restoring CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood, restoration in GALT is delayed. The role of restored CD4+ T-cell help in GALT during ART and its impact on antiviral CD8+ T-cell responses have not been investigated. Using the SIV model, we investigated gut CD4+ T-cell restoration in infected macaques, initiating ART during either the primary stage (1 week postinfection), prior to acute CD4+ cell loss (PSI), or during the chronic stage at 10 weeks postinfection (CSI). ART led to viral suppression in GALT and peripheral blood mononuclear cells of PSI and CSI animals at comparable levels. CSI animals had incomplete CD4+ T-cell restoration in GALT. In PSI animals, ART did not prevent acute CD4+ T-cell loss by 2 weeks postinfection in GALT but supported rapid and complete CD4+ T-cell restoration thereafter. This correlated with an accumulation of central memory CD4+ T cells and better suppression of inflammation. Restoration of CD4+ T cells in GALT correlated with qualitative changes in SIV gag-specific CD8+ T-cell responses, with a dominance of interleukin-2-producing responses in PSI animals, while both CSI macaques and untreated SIV-infected controls were dominated by gamma interferon responses. Thus, central memory CD4+ T-cell levels and qualitative antiviral CD8+ T-cell responses, independent of viral suppression, were the immune correlates of gut mucosal immune restoration during ART.
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