Although gamma interferon (IFN-γ) is a key mediator of antiviral defenses, it is also a mediator of inflammation. As inflammation can drive lentiviral replication, we sought to determine the relationship between IFN-γ-related host immune responses and challenge virus replication in lymphoid tissues of simian-human immunodeficiency virus 89.6 (SHIV89.6)-vaccinated and unvaccinated rhesus macaques 6 months after challenge with simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239. Vaccinated-protected monkeys had low tissue viral RNA (vRNA) levels, vaccinated-unprotected animals had moderate tissue vRNA levels, and unvaccinated animals had high tissue vRNA levels. The long-term challenge outcome in vaccinated monkeys was correlated with the relative balance between SIV-specific IFN-γ T-cell responses and nonspecific IFN-γ-driven inflammation. Vaccinated-protected monkeys had slightly increased tissue IFN-γ mRNA levels and a high frequency of IFN-γ-secreting T cells responding to in vitro SIVgag peptide stimulation; thus, it is likely that they could develop effective anti-SIV cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vivo. In contrast, both high tissue IFN-γ mRNA levels and strong in vitro SIV-specific IFN-γ T-cell responses were detected in lymphoid tissues of vaccinated-unprotected monkeys. Unvaccinated monkeys had increased tissue IFN-γ mRNA levels but weak in vitro anti-SIV IFN-γ T-cell responses. In addition, in lymphoid tissues of vaccinated-unprotected and unvaccinated monkeys, the increased IFN-γ mRNA levels were associated with increased Mig/CXCL9, IP-10/CXCL10, and CXCR3 mRNA levels, suggesting that increased Mig/CXCL9 and IP-10/CXCL10 expression resulted in recruitment of CXCR3+ activated T cells. Thus, IFN-γ-driven inflammation promotes SIV replication in vaccinated-unprotected and unvaccinated monkeys. Unlike all unvaccinated monkeys, most monkeys vaccinated with SHIV89.6 did not develop IFN-γ-driven inflammation, but they did develop effective antiviral CD8+-T-cell responses.
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