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J Virol. 2002 Aug;76(15):7528-34.

Selective loss of innate CD4(+) V alpha 24 natural killer T cells in human immunodeficiency virus infection.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94141, USA.


V alpha 24 natural killer T (NKT) cells are innate immune cells involved in regulation of immune tolerance, autoimmunity, and tumor immunity. However, the effect of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection on these cells is unknown. Here, we report that the V alpha 24 NKT cells can be subdivided into CD4(+) or CD4(-) subsets that differ in their expression of the homing receptors CD62L and CD11a. Furthermore, both CD4(+) and CD4(-) NKT cells frequently express both CXCR4 and CCR5 HIV coreceptors. We find that the numbers of NKT cells are reduced in HIV-infected subjects with uncontrolled viremia and marked CD4(+) T-cell depletion. The number of CD4(+) NKT cells is inversely correlated with HIV load, indicating depletion of this subset. In contrast, CD4(-) NKT-cell numbers are unaffected in subjects with high viral loads. HIV infection experiments in vitro show preferential depletion of CD4(+) NKT cells relative to regular CD4(+) T cells, in particular with virus that uses the CCR5 coreceptor. Thus, HIV infection causes a selective loss of CD4(+) lymph node homing (CD62L(+)) NKT cells, with consequent skewing of the NKT-cell compartment to a predominantly CD4(-) CD62L(-) phenotype. These data indicate that the key immunoregulatory NKT-cell compartment is compromised in HIV-1-infected patients.

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