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J Virol. 2007 Apr;81(7):3477-86. Epub 2007 Jan 24.

Distinct transcriptional profiles in ex vivo CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are established early in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection and are characterized by a chronic interferon response as well as extensive transcriptional changes in CD8+ T cells.

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  • 1Clinical Sciences Division, University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Building, Rm. 6271, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


Changes in T-cell function are a hallmark of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, but the pathogenic mechanisms leading to these changes are unclear. We examined the gene expression profiles in ex vivo human CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from untreated HIV-1-infected individuals at different clinical stages and rates of disease progression. Profiles of pure CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets from HIV-1-infected nonprogressors with controlled viremia were indistinguishable from those of individuals not infected with HIV-1. Similarly, no gene clusters could distinguish T cells from individuals with early infection from those seen in chronic progressive HIV-1 infection, whereas differences were observed between uninfected individuals or nonprogressors versus early or chronic progressors. In early and chronic HIV-1 infection, three characteristic gene expression signatures were observed. (i) CD4+ and CD8+ T cells showed increased expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs). However, some ISGs, including CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11, and the interleukin-15 alpha receptor were not upregulated. (ii) CD4+ and CD8+ T cells showed a cluster similar to that observed in thymocytes. (iii) More genes were differentially regulated in CD8+ T cells than in CD4+ T cells, including a cluster of genes downregulated exclusively in CD8+ T cells. In conclusion, HIV-1 infection induces a persistent T-cell transcriptional profile, early in infection, characterized by a dramatic but potentially aberrant interferon response and a profile suggesting an active thymic output. These findings highlight the complexity of the host-virus relationship in HIV-1 infection.

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