Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-specific memory, or precursor, cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in 14 subjects who had recently experienced seroconversion were evaluated with respect to virus set point, defined as plasma HIV-1 RNA level 6 months after seroconversion. Env-, Gag-, Pol-, and Nef-specific precursor CTL were detected in 51Cr-release assays, using antigen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells as effectors and B cell lines infected with HIV-1-vaccinia recombinants as targets. All subjects tested had precursor CTL specific to at least 2 HIV-1 antigens. Detection of Env-specific precursor CTL was associated with a high set point (P = 0221). The number of antigens recognized tended to be greater in subjects with higher set points (p = .45621; P = .1171). Gag-specific precursor CTL frequency correlated inversely with set point (p = -.8478; P = .0003). Two heterozygotes for a 32-bp deletion in CCR5 had the lowest set points (P = .0220) and highest Gag precursor CTL frequencies (P = .0128). These data suggest that host factors that restrict viral replication may be important determinants of the level of HIV-1-specific precursor CTL.
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