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J Exp Med. 2001 Nov 5;194(9):1277-87.

Increased turnover of T lymphocytes in HIV-1 infection and its reduction by antiretroviral therapy.

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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10016, USA.


The mechanism of CD4(+) T cell depletion in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection remains controversial. Using deuterated glucose to label the DNA of proliferating cells in vivo, we studied T cell dynamics in four normal subjects and seven HIV-1-infected patients naive to antiretroviral drugs. The results were analyzed using a newly developed mathematical model to determine fractional rates of lymphocyte proliferation and death. In CD4(+) T cells, mean proliferation and death rates were elevated by 6.3- and 2.9-fold, respectively, in infected patients compared with normal controls. In CD8(+) T cells, the mean proliferation rate was 7.7-fold higher in HIV-1 infection, but the mean death rate was not significantly increased. Five of the infected patients underwent subsequent deuterated glucose labeling studies after initiating antiretroviral therapy. The lymphocyte proliferation and death rates in both CD4(+) and CD8(+) cell populations were substantially reduced by 5-11 weeks and nearly normal by one year. Taken together, these new findings strongly indicate that CD4(+) lymphocyte depletion seen in AIDS is primarily a consequence of increased cellular destruction, not decreased cellular production.

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