Elizabeth Connick
Division Chief, Infectious Disease
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Immunobiology
Professor, Medicine
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-6887
Research Interest
My laboratory focuses on the immunopathogenesis of HIV infection, particularly strategies employed by the virus to evade cellular immunity. Because most HIV replication occurs in secondary lymphoid tissues, much of our work has been focused on understanding the biology of HIV replication within lymphoid tissues and unique features of the host immune response at those sites. Other areas of interest include investigation of sex differences as well as factors that promote accelerated cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected individuals.

Publications

Connick, E., Folkvord, J. M., Lind, K. T., Rakasz, E. G., Miles, B., Wilson, N. A., Santiago, M. L., Schmitt, K., Stephens, E. B., Kim, H. O., Wagstaff, R., Li, S., Abdelaal, H. M., Kemp, N., Watkins, D. I., MaWhinney, S., & Skinner, P. J. (2014). Compartmentalization of simian immunodeficiency virus replication within secondary lymphoid tissues of rhesus macaques is linked to disease stage and inversely related to localization of virus-specific CTL. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 193(11), 5613-25.

We previously demonstrated that HIV replication is concentrated in lymph node B cell follicles during chronic infection and that HIV-specific CTL fail to accumulate in large numbers at those sites. It is unknown whether these observations can be generalized to other secondary lymphoid tissues or whether virus compartmentalization occurs in the absence of CTL. We evaluated these questions in SIVmac239-infected rhesus macaques by quantifying SIV RNA(+) cells and SIV-specific CTL in situ in spleen, lymph nodes, and intestinal tissues obtained at several stages of infection. During chronic asymptomatic infection prior to simian AIDS, SIV-producing cells were more concentrated in follicular (F) compared with extrafollicular (EF) regions of secondary lymphoid tissues. At day 14 of infection, when CTL have minimal impact on virus replication, there was no compartmentalization of SIV-producing cells. Virus compartmentalization was diminished in animals with simian AIDS, which often have low-frequency CTL responses. SIV-specific CTL were consistently more concentrated within EF regions of lymph node and spleen in chronically infected animals regardless of epitope specificity. Frequencies of SIV-specific CTL within F and EF compartments predicted SIV RNA(+) cells within these compartments in a mixed model. Few SIV-specific CTL expressed the F homing molecule CXCR5 in the absence of the EF retention molecule CCR7, possibly accounting for the paucity of F CTL. These findings bolster the hypothesis that B cell follicles are immune privileged sites and suggest that strategies to augment CTL in B cell follicles could lead to improved viral control and possibly a functional cure for HIV infection.

Connick, E., Ritchie, H. K., Dear, T. B., Catenacci, V., Shea, K., Moehlman, T. M., Stothard, E. R., Higgins, J., McHill, A. W., & Wright Jr., K. P. (2017). Impact of Daytime Blue-Enriched Light Exposure on Cognition During the Workday. SLEEP.
Connick, E., Almodovar, S., Swanson, J., Giavedoni, L. D., Kanthaswamy, S., Long, C. S., Voelkel, N. F., Edwards, M. G., Folkvord, J. M., Westmoreland, S. V., Luciw, P. A., & Flores, S. C. (2017). Lung Vascular Remodeling, Cardiac Hypertrophy and Inflammatory Cytokines in SHIV nef-infected macaques. Viral Immunology.
Miles, B., Miller, S. M., Folkvord, J. M., Kimball, A., Chamanian, M., Meditz, A. L., Arends, T., McCarter, M. D., Levy, D. N., Rakasz, E. G., Skinner, P. J., & Connick, E. (2015). Follicular regulatory T cells impair follicular T helper cells in HIV and SIV infection. Nature communications, 6, 8608.

Human and simian immunodeficiency viruses (HIV and SIV) exploit follicular lymphoid regions by establishing high levels of viral replication and dysregulating humoral immunity. Follicular regulatory T cells (TFR) are a recently characterized subset of lymphocytes that influence the germinal centre response through interactions with follicular helper T cells (TFH). Here, utilizing both human and rhesus macaque models, we show the impact of HIV and SIV infection on TFR number and function. We find that TFR proportionately and numerically expand during infection through mechanisms involving viral entry and replication, TGF-β signalling, low apoptosis rates and the presence of regulatory dendritic cells. Further, TFR exhibit elevated regulatory phenotypes and impair TFH functions during HIV infection. Thus, TFR contribute to inefficient germinal centre responses and inhibit HIV and SIV clearance.

Haas, M. K., Levy, D. N., Folkvord, J. M., & Connick, E. (2015). Distinct patterns of Bcl-2 expression occur in R5- and X4-tropic HIV-1-producing lymphoid tissue cells infected ex vivo. AIDS research and human retroviruses, 31(3), 298-304.

Most HIV-1 replication occurs in secondary lymphoid tissues in T cells within B cell follicles. Mechanisms underlying the accumulation of HIV-1-producing cells at these sites are not understood. Antiapoptotic proteins such as Bcl-2 could promote follicular CD4(+) T cell survival, contributing to sustained virus production. Tonsils obtained from subjects without known HIV infection were disaggregated and analyzed for Bcl-2 expression in follicular (CXCR5(+)) and extrafollicular (CXCR5(-)) CD3(+)CD4(+) cells by flow cytometry. Additional tonsil cells were cultured with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) for 2 days, infected with either CCR5(R5) or CXCR4-tropic (X4) GFP reporter viruses, and analyzed for Bcl-2 expression. In freshly disaggregated CD3(+)CD4(+) tonsil cells, mean florescence intensity (MFI) for Bcl-2 was higher in CXCR5(+) (median, 292) compared to CXCR5(-) cells (median, 194; p=0.001). Following in vitro stimulation with PHA and IL-2, Bcl-2 MFI was higher in both CXCR5(+) cells (median, 757; p=0.03) and CXCR5(-) cells (median, 884; p=0.002) in uninfected cultures compared to freshly isolated tonsil cells. Bcl-2 MFI was higher in GFP(+)CD3(+)CD8(-) R5-producing cells (median, 554) than in X4-producing cells (median, 393; p=0.02). Bcl-2 MFI was higher in R5-producing CXCR5(+) cells (median, 840) compared to all other subsets including R5-producing CXCR5(-) cells (median, 524; p=0.04), X4-producing CXCR5(+) cells (median, 401; p=0.02), and X4-producing CXCR5(-) cells (median, 332; p=0.008). Bcl-2 expression is elevated in R5 HIV-1-producing CXCR5(+) T cells in vitro, which may contribute to propagation of R5 virus in B cell follicles in vivo.