To define the contribution of CD8+ T cell responses to control of SIV reactivation during and following antiretroviral therapy (ART), we determined the effect of long-term CD8+ T cell depletion using a rhesusized anti-CD8β monoclonal antibody on barcoded SIVmac239 dynamics on stable ART and after ART cessation in rhesus macaques (RMs). Among the RMs with full CD8+ T cell depletion in both blood and tissue, there were no significant differences in the frequency of viral blips in plasma, the number of SIV RNA+ cells and the average number of RNA copies/infected cell in tissue, and levels of cell-associated SIV RNA and DNA in blood and tissue relative to control-treated RMs during ART. Upon ART cessation, both CD8+ T cell-depleted and control RMs rebounded in fewer than 12 days, with no difference in the time to viral rebound or in either the number or growth rate of rebounding SIVmac239M barcode clonotypes. However, effectively CD8+ T cell-depleted RMs showed a stable, approximately 2-log increase in post-ART plasma viremia relative to controls. These results indicate that while potent antiviral CD8+ T cell responses can develop during ART-suppressed SIV infection, these responses effectively intercept post-ART SIV rebound only after systemic viral replication, too late to limit reactivation frequency or the early spread of reactivating SIV reservoirs.
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