Immunological correlates of AIDS-free survival after human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection are largely unknown. Cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses are generally believed to be a major component of protective immunity against viral infections. However, the relationship between HIV-1-specific CTL responses and disease progression rate is presently unclear. Here we show in twelve HIV-1-infected individuals that detection of Rev-specific CTL precursors (CTLp) early in the asymptomatic stage, as well as detection of Rev- and Tat-specific CTLp later during follow-up, inversely correlate with rapid disease progression. No such correlation was found for detection of CTLp against Gag, RT or Nef. Further studies are required to determine whether a protective mechanism is indeed the basis of the observed correlation. The data presented are in agreement with the hypothesis that CTL against proteins that are important for early viral transcription and translation are of particular importance in protection from rapid disease progression.


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