Although many HIV cure strategies seek to expand HIV-specific CD8+ T cells to control the virus, all are likely to fail if cellular exhaustion is not prevented. A loss in stem-like memory properties (i.e., the ability to proliferate and generate secondary effector cells) is a key feature of exhaustion; little is known, however, about how these properties are regulated in human virus–specific CD8+ T cells. We found that virus-specific CD8+ T cells from humans and nonhuman primates naturally controlling HIV/SIV infection express more of the transcription factor TCF-1 than noncontrollers. HIV-specific CD8+ T cell TCF-1 expression correlated with memory marker expression and expansion capacity and declined with antigenic stimulation. CRISPR-Cas9 editing of TCF-1 in human primary T cells demonstrated a direct role in regulating expansion capacity. Collectively, these data suggest that TCF-1 contributes to the regulation of the stem-like memory property of secondary expansion capacity of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells, and they provide a rationale for exploring the enhancement of this pathway in T cell–based therapeutic strategies for HIV.
Rachel L. Rutishauser, Christian Deo T. Deguit, Joseph Hiatt, Franziska Blaeschke, Theodore L. Roth, Lynn Wang, Kyle A. Raymond, Carly E. Starke, Joseph C. Mudd, Wenxuan Chen, Carolyn Smullin, Rodrigo Matus-Nicodemos, Rebecca Hoh, Melissa Krone, Frederick M. Hecht, Christopher D. Pilcher, Jeffrey N. Martin, Richard A. Koup, Daniel C. Douek, Jason M. Brenchley, Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, Satish K. Pillai, Alexander Marson, Steven G. Deeks, Joseph M. McCune, Peter W. Hunt