Elizabeth Connick

Elizabeth Connick

Professor, Medicine
Division Chief, Infectious Disease
Professor, Immunobiology
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-6887

Work Summary

Dr. Connick is a physician scientist who has dedicated her career to the improvement of health of individuals living with or at risk for HIV-1 infection. Her research ranges from laboratory based investigations of HIV-1 immunopathogenesis to clinical and epidemiological studies of novel immunotherapies and other interventions to improve health outcomes in people living with HIV-1.

Research Interest

Elizabeth Connick, M.D.'s 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 her 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 in HIV-1 infection as well as factors that promote accelerated cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected individuals.


Miles, B., Miller, S. M., Folkvord, J. M., Levy, D. N., Rakasz, E. G., Skinner, P. J., & Connick, E. (2016). Follicular Regulatory CD8 T Cells Impair the Germinal Center Response in SIV and Ex Vivo HIV Infection. PLoS pathogens, 12(10), e1005924.

During chronic HIV infection, viral replication is concentrated in secondary lymphoid follicles. Cytotoxic CD8 T cells control HIV replication in extrafollicular regions, but not in the follicle. Here, we show CXCR5hiCD44hiCD8 T cells are a regulatory subset differing from conventional CD8 T cells, and constitute the majority of CD8 T cells in the follicle. This subset, CD8 follicular regulatory T cells (CD8 TFR), expand in chronic SIV infection, exhibit enhanced expression of Tim-3 and IL-10, and express less perforin compared to conventional CD8 T cells. CD8 TFR modestly limit HIV replication in follicular helper T cells (TFH), impair TFH IL-21 production via Tim-3, and inhibit IgG production by B cells during ex vivo HIV infection. CD8 TFR induce TFH apoptosis through HLA-E, but induce less apoptosis than conventional CD8 T cells. These data demonstrate that a unique regulatory CD8 population exists in follicles that impairs GC function in HIV infection.

Connick, E., Bronnimann, M. P., & Skinner, P. J. (2018). The B-cell Follicle in HIV Infection: Barrier to a Cure. Frontiers in Immunology.
Miles, B., & Connick, E. (2016). TFH in HIV Latency and as Sources of Replication-Competent Virus. Trends in microbiology, 24(5), 338-44.

During untreated disease, HIV replication is concentrated within T follicular helper cells (TFH). Heightened permissiveness, the presence of highly infectious virions on follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), low frequencies of virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in B cell follicles, expansions in TFH, and TFH dysfunction, all likely promote replication in TFH. Limited data suggest that memory TFH play a role in the latent or subclinical reservoir of HIV during antiretroviral therapy (ART), potentially for many of the same reasons. A better understanding of the role of memory TFH and FDC-bound virions in promoting recrudescent viremia in the setting of ART cessation is essential. Studies that target follicular virus reservoirs are needed to determine their role in HIV latency and to suggest successful cure strategies.

Miller, S. M., Miles, B., Guo, K., Folkvord, J., Meditz, A. L., McCarter, M. D., Levy, D. N., MaWhinney, S., Santiago, M. L., & Connick, E. (2017). Follicular Regulatory T Cells Are Highly Permissive to R5-Tropic HIV-1. Journal of virology, 91(17).

Follicular regulatory T (TFR) cells are a subset of CD4+ T cells in secondary lymphoid follicles. TFR cells were previously included in the follicular helper T (TFH) cell subset, which consists of cells that are highly permissive to HIV-1. The permissivity of TFR cells to HIV-1 is unknown. We find that TFR cells are more permissive than TFH cells to R5-tropic HIV-1 ex vivo TFR cells expressed more CCR5 and CD4 and supported higher frequencies of viral fusion. Differences in Ki67 expression correlated with HIV-1 replication. Inhibiting cellular proliferation reduced Ki67 expression and HIV-1 replication. Lymph node cells from untreated HIV-infected individuals revealed that TFR cells harbored the highest concentrations of HIV-1 RNA and highest levels of Ki67 expression. These data demonstrate that TFR cells are highly permissive to R5-tropic HIV-1 both ex vivo and in vivo This is likely related to elevated CCR5 levels combined with a heightened proliferative state and suggests that TFR cells contribute to persistent R5-tropic HIV-1 replication in vivoIMPORTANCE In chronic, untreated HIV-1 infection, viral replication is concentrated in secondary lymphoid follicles. Within secondary lymphoid follicles, follicular helper T (TFH) cells have previously been shown to be highly permissive to HIV-1. Recently, another subset of T cells in secondary lymphoid follicles was described, follicular regulatory T (TFR) cells. These cells share some phenotypic characteristics with TFH cells, and studies that showed that TFH cells are highly permissive to HIV-1 included TFR cells in their definition of TFH cells. The permissivity of TFR cells to HIV-1 has not previously been described. Here, we show that TFR cells are highly permissive to HIV-1 both ex vivo and in vivo The expression of Ki67, a marker of proliferative capacity, is predictive of expression of viral proteins, and downregulating Ki67 leads to concurrent decreases in expression of viral proteins. Our study provides new insight into HIV-1 replication and a potential new cell type to target for future treatment.

Connick, E., Melanson, E. L., 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). Daytime Bright Light Exposure, Metabolism, and Individual Differences in Wake and Sleep Energy Expenditure During Circadian Entrainment and Misalignment.. Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms.