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Clin Exp Immunol. 2004 Nov;138(2):251-8.

Expression of Werner and Bloom syndrome genes is differentially regulated by in vitro HIV-1 infection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

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  • 1National Institute for Infectious Diseases 'L. Spallanzani', Università di Roma 'La Sapienza', Istitito di Biologia e Patologia Molecolare CNR, Rome, Italy.

Abstract

In HIV infection, continuous immune activation leads to accelerated ageing of the adaptive immune system, similar to that observed in elderly people. We investigated the expression of WRN and BLM (genes involved in disorders characterized by premature ageing, genomic instability and cancer predisposition) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) activated in vitro with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and infected with different HIV-1 strains. The steady state levels of mRNA were analysed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and protein expression was assayed using immunocytochemistry and Western blot techniques. In uninfected PBMC, PHA stimulation induced an increase in BLM mRNA and protein expression, while WRN expression remained virtually unchanged. When PBMC were infected in vitro with a lymphotropic HIV-1 strain, the level of BLM mRNA showed a peak at 24 h of infection, followed by a decline to uninfected culture levels. A similar result failed to be seen using an R5-tropic HIV-1 strain. In accordance with mRNA expression, in HIV-infected cultures PBMC were stained more frequently and more intensely by a BLM-specific antibody as compared to uninfected cultures, staining peaking at 24. Conversely, WRN expression was not modulated by HIV-1. The proportion of cells showing BLM up-regulation, established by immunocytochemical staining, was much greater than the proportion of productively infected PBMC, as established by proviral DNA measurement. This result indicates that BLM up-regulation is probably a result of an indirect bystander cell effect. Activation of the BLM gene in infected PBMC suggests that premature ageing could be a further immunopathogenetic mechanism involved in HIV-induced immunodeficiency, and points to a possible new candidate target for innovative therapeutic intervention.

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