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Frequency and function of KIR+ CD8+ T cells in HTLV-1 infection

An efficient antiviral cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response to HTLV-1 infection maintains a low proviral load (PVL), reducing the risk of HAM/TSP. Host genotype, particularly of HLA class I, is a major determinant of CTL efficiency, and the influence of specific HLA class I alleles on HTLV-1 immunity is well documented. We recently showed that killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) genotype also influences CTL efficiency, by affecting HLA class I-mediated HTLV-1 immunity. Possession of the KIR2DL2 gene enhanced the effect of known protective or detrimental HLA class I alleles on PVL and HAM/TSP risk. This study aims to profile the frequency and function of CD8+ T cells expressing KIR2DL2 and other KIRs in HTLV-1 infection. Analysing total KIR expression showed the presence of KIR+CD8+ T cells, NK cells and CD4+ T cells in PBMCs from uninfected and HTLV-1+ donors. A subset of HTLV-1+ donors had high frequencies of total KIR+CD8+ T cells. Analysing individual KIRs revealed the presence of KIR2DL2+CD8+ T cells in HTLV-1+ donors. Preliminary data from PBMCs stimulated with Tax peptides indicates that KIR2DL2+CD8+ T cells constitute a very small proportion of the IFNγ-producing Tax-specific CD8+ T cell population. HTLV-1+ asymptomatic carriers had higher frequencies of IFNγ-producing Tax-specific KIR2DL2+CD8+ T cells than donors with HAM/TSP did. Further work is underway to characterise the function of Tax-specific CD8+ T cells by staining with anti-CD107a, anti-IFNγ and the HLA-A2/Tax11-19 pentamer, and to compare the frequency and function of KIR2DL2+CD8+ T cells with those expressing other 2-domain KIRs.

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Correspondence to Katie Twigger.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Twigger, K., Rowan, A., Seich al Basatena, NK. et al. Frequency and function of KIR+ CD8+ T cells in HTLV-1 infection. Retrovirology 11 (Suppl 1), P79 (2014).

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