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J Virol. 2003 May;77(10):5846-54.

In vivo evolution of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 toward increased pathogenicity through CXCR4-mediated killing of uninfected CD4 T cells.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94141-9100, USA.


The destruction of the immune system by progressive loss of CD4 T cells is the hallmark of AIDS. CCR5-dependent (R5) human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) isolates predominate in the early, asymptomatic stages of HIV-1 infection, while CXCR4-dependent (X4) isolates typically emerge at later stages, frequently coinciding with a rapid decline in CD4 T cells. Lymphocyte killing in vivo primarily occurs through apoptosis, but the importance of apoptosis of HIV-1-infected cells relative to apoptosis of uninfected bystander cells is controversial. Here we show that in human lymphoid tissues ex vivo, apoptosis of uninfected bystander CD4 T cells is a major mechanism of lymphocyte depletion caused by X4 HIV-1 strains but is only a minor mechanism of depletion by R5 strains. Further, X4 HIV-1-induced bystander apoptosis requires the interaction of the viral envelope glycoprotein gp120 with the CXCR4 coreceptor on CD4 T cells. These results emphasize the contribution of bystander apoptosis to HIV-1 cytotoxicity and suggest that in association with a coreceptor switch in HIV disease, T-cell killing evolves from an infection-restricted stage to generalized toxicity that involves a high degree of bystander apoptosis.

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