HIV disease progression is characterized by numerous pathological changes of the cellular immune system. Still, the CD4 cell count and viral load represent the laboratory parameters that are most commonly used in the clinic to determine the disease progression. In this study, we conducted an interdisciplinary investigation to determine which laboratory parameters (viral load, CD4 count, CD8 count, CD4 %, CD8 %, CD4/CD8) are most strongly associated with pathological changes of the immune system. Multiparametric flow cytometry was used to assess markers of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell activation (CD38, HLA-DR), exhaustion (PD-1, Tim-3), senescence (CD28, CD57), and memory differentiation (CD45RO, CD27) in a cohort of 47 untreated HIV-infected individuals. Using bioinformatical methods, we identified 139 unique populations, representing the “combined T cell pathogenesis,” which significantly differed between the HIV-infected individuals and healthy control subjects. CD38, HLA-DR, and PD-1 were particularly expressed within these unique T cell populations. The CD4/CD8 ratio was correlated with more pathological T cell populations (n = 10) and had a significantly higher average correlation coefficient than any other laboratory parameters. We also reduced the dimensionalities of the 139-unique populations by Z-transformations and principal component analysis, which still identified the CD4/CD8 ratio as the preeminent surrogate of combined T cell pathogenesis. Importantly, the CD4/CD8 ratio at baseline was shown to be significantly associated with CD4 recovery 2 y after therapy initiation. These results indicate that the CD4/CD8 ratio would be a suitable laboratory predictor in future clinical and therapeutic settings to monitor pathological T cell events in HIV infection.
Journal of Immunology, 2014, Vol 192, Issue 5, p. 2099-2108