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AIDS. 2006 Jun 26;20(10):1379-89.

Interferon-alpha differentially rescues CD4 and CD8 T cells from apoptosis in HIV infection.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Case Western Reserve University, Center foe AIDS Research, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.



To examine the effects of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) on T cell survival and activation in HIV infection.


The effects of IFN-alpha on spontaneous apoptosis and CD38 expression among T cell subsets were determined in vitro and studied in relation to CD4 cell counts, plasma HIV RNA levels and the age of the subjects.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 48 HIV-infected persons and 17 healthy donors were incubated in vitro overnight with or without the addition of IFN-alpha. Percentages of apoptotic cells (positive for annexin V) and CD38 cells were determined among T cell subsets.


IFN-alpha inhibited spontaneous apoptosis of CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes. This protective activity was impaired in CD4 T cells from HIV-infected persons. The reduced protection of IFN-alpha among CD4 cells from HIV-infected persons was not related to the percentages of activated (CD38 or CD45RO+CD38+) cells. Surprisingly, IFN-alpha induced CD38 expression among CD8 T cells from HIV-infected persons, and the magnitude of this effect was directly related to circulating CD4 T cell count. The CD8 T cell subset that expressed CD38 in response to IFN-alpha was defined as CD28 negative, CD62 ligand (CD62L) intermediate/negative.


Heightened expression of IFN-alpha in HIV infection may contribute to the phenotypic activation state that characterizes chronic infection while a diminished responsiveness of CD4 T cells to the protective effect of this cytokine may contribute to differential survival of CD4 and CD8 T cells in HIV disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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