Julien van Grevenynghe, PhD

Department of Infectious diseases, immunity, cancer and epidemiology, INRS – Institut Armand-Frappier and the Université du Québec

Autophagy regulates CD8 T-cell killing activity during chronic HIV-1 infection

Autophagy, a natural self-destructive process in cells, eliminates some viruses from cells, and also plays a role in shaping functions of T cells, a primary part of the immune system. Dr van Grevenynghe’s group is investigating the role of autophagy on effective T cell activity in “elite controllers” (ECs), a rare group of HIV-1-infected subjects with natural control of viral replication. ECs are the only patients maintaining potent CD8 T-cell protection for years, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms responsible for their stronger CD8 T-cell immunity.

Julien van Grevenynghe, PhD
Julien van Grevenynghe, PhD, recipient of a 2017 Banting Research Foundation Discovery Award

Their findings will represent a key step towards improving our understanding of optimal HIV-specific T-cell immunity, and will be relevant to enhancing vaccine efficacy or restoring fatigued T-cells in non-ECs. Many efforts are being made worldwide to design effective HIV vaccines, but they have been largely disappointing so far. Understanding the process of developing immunity to HIV infection through effective CD8 T-cell responses will help in developing more effective HIV vaccines.