Specific cellular immune responses to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) were assessed in mononuclear leukocyte cultures from homosexual men with documented, early phase HIV-1 infection. Cell cultures from men with a mean duration of 1.3 yr (range, 0.3 to 2.2 yr) of HIV-1 infection were treated with UV-inactivated, whole, purified HIV-1 Ag together with various concentrations of rIL-2. Cell supernatants were harvested after 5-day incubation and assayed for IFN activity against encephalomyocarditis virus in human WISH cells. IFN subtypes were characterized by neutralization of antiviral activity with antiserum specific for human IFN-gamma and IFN-alpha. Results showed that cultures from 68% (17 of 25) of the HIV-1-seropositive subjects produced "immune" IFN-gamma in response to whole HIV-1 Ag plus rIL-2. IFN-gamma was induced in only 20% (5 of 25) of cultures treated with HIV-1 Ag alone. Enhancement of HIV-1-specific IFN-gamma production by rIL-2 was synergistic rather than additive in that titers induced by the mixture were consistently higher than the sum of IFN titers induced by HIV-1 or rIL-2 alone. This effect was not demonstrable in cultures from 18 HIV-1-seronegative men. Similarly, HIV-1-immune specific augmentation of IFN-gamma production by rIL-2 was noted for PENV9, a recombinant HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp41 and gp120 fragment. Production of IFN-gamma may be an important, HIV-1-immune specific parameter in the host response to this retrovirus.

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