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FASEB J. 2001 Jan;15(1):5-6. Epub 2000 Nov 9.

HIV induces lymphocyte apoptosis by a p53-initiated, mitochondrial-mediated mechanism.

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Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0663, USA.


HIV-1 induces apoptosis and leads to CD4+ T-lymphocyte depletion in humans. It is still unclear whether HIV-1 kills infected cells directly or indirectly. To elucidate the mechanisms of HIV-1-induced apoptosis, we infected human CD4+ T cells with HIV-1. Enzymatic analysis with fluorometric substrates showed that caspase 2, 3, and 9 were activated in CD4+ T cells with peak levels 48 h after infection. Immunoblotting analysis confirmed the cleavage of pro-caspase 3 and 9, and of specific caspase substrates. Release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from mitochondria was observed in HIV-infected cells. The cytochrome c and AIF release preceded the reduction of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential and nuclear chromatin condensation. H IV infection led to phosphorylation of p53 at the Ser15 residue, detectable as early as 24 h after infection. The p53 phosphorylation was followed by increased mRNA and protein expression of p21, Bax, HDM2, and p53. Up-regulation of surface FasL expression, accompanied by a down-regulation of Fas-associated proteins (FADD, DAXX, and RIP), was observed 72 h after infection. Our results suggest that HIV activates the p53 pathway, leading to cytochrome c and AIF release with ensuing caspase activation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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