Wilson, C. C.,Brown, R. C.,Korber, B. T.,Wilkes, B. M.,Ruhl, D. J.,Sakamoto, D.,Kunstman, L.,Luzuriaga, K.,Hanson, I. C.,Widmayer, S. M.,Wiznia, A.,Clapp, S.,Ammann, A. J.,Koup, R. A.,Wolinsky, S. M.,Walker, B. D.
Host immunologic factors, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), are thought to contribute to the control of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) replication and thus delay disease progression in infected individuals. Host immunologic factors are also likely to influence perinatal transmission of HIV-1 from infected mother to infant. In this study, the potential role of CTL in modulating HIV-1 transmission from mother to infant was examined in 11 HIV-1-infected mothers, 3 of whom transmitted virus to their offspring. Frequencies of HIV-1-specific human leukocyte antigen class I-restricted CTL responses and viral epitope amino acid sequence variation were determined in the mothers and their infected infants. Maternal HIV-1-specific CTL clones were derived from each of the HIV-l-infected pregnant women. Amino acid substitutions within the targeted CTL epitopes were more frequently identified in transmitting mothers than in nontransmitting mothers, and immune escape from CTL recognition was detected in all three transmitting mothers but in only one of eight nontransmitting mothers. The majority of viral sequences obtained from the HIV-1-infected infant blood samples were susceptible to maternal CTL. These findings demonstrate that epitope amino acid sequence variation and escape from CTL recognition occur more frequently in mothers that transmit HIV-1 to their infants than in those who do not. However, the transmitted virus can be a CTL susceptible form, suggesting inadequate in vivo immune control.