CD8 T cells are emerging as important mediators in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Immune activation may play a particular role in people with HIV (PWH) who are at an increased risk of CVD, even after controlling for known CVD risk factors. Latent CMV infection is associated with increased CVD risk for both PWH and people without HIV, and human CMV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells are enriched for an immunosenescent phenotype. We previously showed that CMV coinfection in PWH promotes vascular homing and activation of inflammatory CD4 T cells through the CD2–LFA-3 axis. However, the role of CD2/LFA3 costimulation of CD8 T cells in PWH with CMV has yet to be described. In the present study, we demonstrate that CD2 expression on CX3CR1+CD57+CD28 inflammescent CD8 T cells is increased on cells from CMV-seropositive PWH. In vitro CD2/LFA-3 costimulation enhances TCR-mediated activation of these inflammatory CD8 memory T cells. Finally, we show that LFA-3 is highly expressed in aortas of SIV-infected rhesus macaques and in atherosclerotic plaques of people without HIV. Our findings are consistent with a model in which CMV infection enhances CD2 expression on highly proinflammatory CD8 T cells that can then be stimulated by LFA-3 expressed in the vasculature, even in the absence of CD28 costimulation. This model, in which CMV infection exacerbates toxic cytokine and granzyme production by CD8 T cells within the vasculature, highlights a potential therapeutic target in atherosclerosis development and progression, especially for PWH.

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