[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Tat is a key HIV-1 virulence factor, which plays pivotal roles in virus gene expression, replication, transmission and disease progression. After release, extracellular Tat accumulates in tissues and exerts effects on both the virus and the immune system, promoting immune activation and virus spreading while disabling the host immune defense. In particular, Tat binds Env spikes on virus particles forming a virus entry complex, which favors infection of dendritic cells and efficient transmission to T cells via RGD-binding integrins. Tat also shields the CCR5-binding sites of Env rendering ineffective virus neutralization by anti-Env antibodies (Abs). This is reversed by the anti-Tat Abs present in natural infection or induced by vaccination.
Here we present the results of a cohort study, showing that the presence of anti-Tat Abs in asymptomatic and treatment-naïve HIV-infected subjects is associated with containment of CD4+ T-cell loss and viral load and with a delay of disease progression. In fact, no subjects with high anti-Tat Ab titers initiated antiretroviral therapy during the three years of follow-up. In contrast, no significant effects were seen for anti-Env and anti-Gag Abs. The increase of anti-Env Ab titers was associated with a reduced risk of starting therapy only in the presence of anti-Tat Abs, suggesting an effect of combined anti-Tat and anti-Env Abs on the Tat/Env virus entry complex and on virus neutralization.
Anti-Tat immunity may help delay HIV disease progression, thus, targeting Tat may offer a novel therapeutic intervention to postpone antiretroviral treatment or to increase its efficacy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although HAART suppresses HIV replication, it is often unable to restore immune homeostasis. Consequently, non-AIDS-defining diseases are increasingly seen in treated individuals. This is attributed to persistent virus expression in reservoirs and to cell activation. Of note, in CD4+ T cells and monocyte-macrophages of virologically-suppressed individuals, there is continued expression of multi-spliced transcripts encoding HIV regulatory proteins. Among them, Tat is essential for virus gene expression and replication, either in primary infection or for virus reactivation during HAART, when Tat is expressed, released extracellularly and exerts, on both the virus and the immune system, effects that contribute to disease maintenance. Here we report results of an ad hoc exploratory interim analysis (up to 48 weeks) on 87 virologically-suppressed HAART-treated individuals enrolled in a phase II randomized open-label multicentric clinical trial of therapeutic immunization with Tat (ISS T-002). Eighty-eight virologically-suppressed HAART-treated individuals, enrolled in a parallel prospective observational study at the same sites (ISS OBS T-002), served for intergroup comparison. Immunization with Tat was safe, induced durable immune responses, and modified the pattern of CD4+ and CD8+ cellular activation (CD38 and HLA-DR) together with reduction of biochemical activation markers and persistent increases of regulatory T cells. This was accompanied by a progressive increment of CD4+ T cells and B cells with reduction of CD8+ T cells and NK cells, which were independent from the type of antiretroviral regimen. Increase in central and effector memory and reduction in terminally-differentiated effector memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were accompanied by increases of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses against Env and recall antigens. Of note, more immune-compromised individuals experienced greater therapeutic effects. In contrast, these changes were opposite, absent or partial in the OBS population. These findings support the use of Tat immunization to intensify HAART efficacy and to restore immune homeostasis.
PLoS ONE 11/2010; 5(11):e13540. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0013540 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The native HIV-1 Tat protein was chosen as vaccine candidate for phase I clinical trials based on its role in the natural infection and AIDS pathogenesis, on the association of Tat-specific immune response with the asymptomatic stage as well as on its sequence conservation among HIV clades. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled phase I study (ISS P-001) was conducted in healthy adult volunteers without identifiable risk of HIV infection. Tat was administered 5 times monthly, subcute in alum or intradermic alone at 7.5 microg, 15 microg or 30 microg, respectively (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00529698). Vaccination with Tat resulted to be safe and well tolerated (primary endpoint) both locally and systemically. In addition, Tat induced both Th1 and Th2 type specific immune responses in all subjects (secondary endpoint) with a wide spectrum of functional antibodies that are rarely seen in natural infection, providing key information for further clinical development of the Tat vaccine candidate.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The native HIV-1 Tat protein was chosen as vaccine candidate for phase I clinical trials in both uninfected (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00529698) and infected volunteers (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00505401). The rationale was based on the role of Tat in the natural infection and AIDS pathogenesis, on the association of Tat-specific immune responses with the asymptomatic stage and slow-progression rate as well as on its sequence conservation among HIV clades (http://www.hiv1tat-vaccines.info/). The parallel conduction in the same clinical centers of randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled phase I studies both in healthy, immunologically competent adults and in HIV-infected, clinically asymptomatic, individuals represents a unique occasion to compare the vaccine-induced immune response in both the preventive and therapeutic setting. In both studies, the same lot of the native Tat protein was administered 5 times, every four weeks, subcute (SC) with alum adjuvant or intradermic (ID), in the absence of adjuvant, at 7.5 microg, 15 microg or 30 microg doses, respectively. The primary and secondary endpoints of these studies were the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate, respectively. The study lasted 52 weeks and monitoring was conducted for on additional 3 years. The results of both studies indicated that the Tat vaccine is safe and well tolerated both locally and systemically and it is highly immunogenic at all the dosages and by both routes of administration. Vaccination with Tat induced a balanced immune response in uninfected and infected individuals. In particular, therapeutic immunization induced functional antibodies and partially reverted the marked Th1 polarization of anti-Tat immunity seen in natural infection, and elicited a more balanced Th1/Th2 immune response. Further, the number of CD4 T cells correlated positively with anti-Tat antibody titers. Based on these results, a phase II study is ongoing in infected drug-treated individuals (http://www.hiv1tat-vaccines.info/).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled phase I vaccine trial based on the native Tat protein was conducted in HIV-infected asymptomatic individuals. The vaccine was administered five times subcute with alum or intradermally without adjuvant at 7.5microg, 15microg or 30microg doses, respectively. The Tat vaccine was well tolerated both locally and systemically and induced and/or maintained Tat-specific T helper (Th)-1 T-cell responses and Th-2 responses in all subjects with a wide spectrum of functional anti-Tat antibodies, rarely seen in HIV-infected subjects. The data indicate the achievement of both the primary (safety) and secondary (immunogenicity) endpoints of the study.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The HIV epidemic continues to represent one of the major problems worldwide, particularly in the Asia and Sub-Saharan regions of the world, with social and economical devastating effects. Although antiretroviral drugs have had a dramatically beneficial impact on HIV-infected individuals that have access to treatment, it has had a negligible impact on the global epidemic. Hence, the inexorable spreading of the HIV pandemic and the increasing deaths from AIDS, especially in developing countries, underscore the urgency for an effective vaccine against HIV/AIDS. However, the generation of such a vaccine has turned out to be extremely challenging. Here we provide an overview on the rationale for the use of non-structural HIV proteins, such as the Tat protein, alone or in combination with other HIV early and late structural HIV antigens, as novel, promising preventative and therapeutic HIV/AIDS vaccine strategies.
International Reviews Of Immunology 01/2009; 28(5):285-334. DOI:10.1080/08830180903013026 · 4.10 Impact Factor