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J Immunol. 2007 Mar 1;178(5):3252-9.

Rate of increase in circulating IL-7 and loss of IL-7Ralpha expression differ in HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections: two lymphopenic diseases with similar hyperimmune activation but distinct outcomes.

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  • 1Unidade de Imunologia Clínica, Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.


IL-7 is a nonredundant cytokine for T cell homeostasis. Circulating IL-7 levels increase in lymphopenic clinical settings, including HIV-1 infection. HIV-2 infection is considered a "natural" model of attenuated HIV disease given its much slower rate of CD4 decline than HIV-1 and limited impact on the survival of the majority of infected adults. We compared untreated HIV-1- and HIV-2-infected patients and found that the HIV-2 cohort demonstrated a delayed increase in IL-7 levels during the progressive depletion of circulating CD4 T cells as well as a dissociation between the acquisition of markers of T cell effector differentiation and the loss of IL-7Ralpha expression. This comparison of two persistent infections associated with progressive CD4 depletion and immune activation demonstrates that a better prognosis is not necessarily associated with higher levels of IL-7. Moreover, the delayed increase in IL-7 coupled with sustained expression of IL-7Ralpha suggests a maximization of available resources in HIV-2. The observation that increased IL-7 levels early in HIV-1 infection were unable to reduce the rate of CD4 loss and the impaired expression of the IL-7Ralpha irrespective of the state of cell differentiation raises concerns regarding the use of IL-7 therapy in HIV-1 infection.

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