Although the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is an important early site for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication and severe CD4 + T-cell depletion, our understanding is limited about the restoration of the gut mucosal immune system during highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). We evaluated the kinetics of viral suppression, CD4 + T-cell restoration, gene expression, and HIV-specific CD8 + T-cell responses in longitudinal gastrointestinal biopsy and peripheral blood samples from patients initiating HAART during primary HIV infection (PHI) or chronic HIV infection (CHI) using flow cytometry, real-time PCR, and DNA microarray analysis. Viral suppression was more effective in GALT of PHI patients than CHI patients during HAART. Mucosal CD4+ T-cell restoration was delayed compared to peripheral blood and independent of the time of HAART initiation. Immunophenotypic analysis showed that repopulating mucosal CD4+ T cells were predominantly of a memory phenotype and expressed CD11α, αEβ7, CCR5, and CXCR4. Incomplete suppression of viral replication in GALT during HAART correlated with increased HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. DNA microarray analysis revealed that genes involved in inflammation and cell activation were up regulated in patients who did not replenish mucosal CD4+ T cells efficiently, while expression of genes involved in growth and repair was increased in patients with efficient mucosal CD4+ T-cell restoration. Our findings suggest that the discordance in CD4+ T-cell restoration between GALT and peripheral blood during therapy can be attributed to the incomplete viral suppression and increased immune activation and inflammation that may prevent restoration of CD4+ T cells and the gut microenvironment.
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