CD4- and time-dependent susceptibility of HIV-1-infected cells to antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity

Wen Shi Lee, Jérémie Prévost, Jonathan Richard, Reneé M. van der Sluis, Sharon R. Lewin, Marzena Pazgier, Andrés Finzi, Matthew S. Parsons, Stephen J. Kent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


HIV-1-specific antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) antibodies within HIV-1-positive (HIV-1+) individuals predominantly target CD4-induced (CD4i) epitopes on HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env). These CD4i epitopes are usually concealed on the surface of infected cells due to CD4 downregulation by the HIV-1 accessory proteins Nef and Vpu. We hypothesized that early-stage infected cells in the process of downregulating CD4 could be more susceptible to ADCC than late-stage infected cells that have fully downregulated CD4. There was significantly higher binding of antibodies within plasma from HIV-1-infected individuals to early-stage infected cells expressing intermediate levels of CD4 (CD4-intermediate cells) than in late-stage infected cells expressing low levels of CD4 (CD4-low cells). However, we noted that HIV-1-uninfected bystander cells and HIV-1-infected cells, at various stages of downregulating CD4, were all susceptible to NK cell-mediated ADCC. Importantly, we observed that the cytolysis of bystander cells and early infected cells in this culture system was driven by sensitization of target cells by inoculum-derived HIV-1 Env or virions. This phenomenon provided Env to target cells prior to de novo Env expression, resulting in artifactual ADCC measurements. Future studies should take into consideration the inherent caveats of in vitro infection systems and develop improved models to address the potential role for ADCC against cells with nascent HIV-1 infection. IMPORTANCE An increasing body of evidence suggests that ADCC contributes to protection against HIV-1 acquisition and slower HIV-1 disease progression. Targeting cells early during the infection cycle would be most effective in limiting virus production and spread. We hypothesized that there could be a time-dependent susceptibility of HIV-1-infected cells to ADCC in regard to CD4 expression. We observed NK cell-mediated ADCC of HIV-1-infected cells at multiple stages of CD4 downregulation. Importantly, ADCC of early infected cells appeared to be driven by a previously unappreciated problem of soluble Env and virions from the viral inoculum sensitizing uninfected cells to ADCC prior to de novo Env expression. These results have implications for studies examining ADCC against cells with nascent HIV-1 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01901-18
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • ADCC
  • Antibodies
  • CD4
  • HIV


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