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J Immunol. 2007 Sep 1;179(5):3026-34.

Severe depletion of mucosal CD4+ T cells in AIDS-free simian immunodeficiency virus-infected sooty mangabeys.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


HIV-infected humans and SIV-infected rhesus macaques experience a rapid and dramatic loss of mucosal CD4+ T cells that is considered to be a key determinant of AIDS pathogenesis. In this study, we show that nonpathogenic SIV infection of sooty mangabeys (SMs), a natural host species for SIV, is also associated with an early, severe, and persistent depletion of memory CD4+ T cells from the intestinal and respiratory mucosa. Importantly, the kinetics of the loss of mucosal CD4+ T cells in SMs is similar to that of SIVmac239-infected rhesus macaques. Although the nonpathogenic SIV infection of SMs induces the same pattern of mucosal target cell depletion observed during pathogenic HIV/SIV infections, the depletion in SMs occurs in the context of limited local and systemic immune activation and can be reverted if virus replication is suppressed by antiretroviral treatment. These results indicate that a profound depletion of mucosal CD4+ T cells is not sufficient per se to induce loss of mucosal immunity and disease progression during a primate lentiviral infection. We propose that, in the disease-resistant SIV-infected SMs, evolutionary adaptation to both preserve immune function with fewer mucosal CD4+ T cells and attenuate the immune activation that follows acute viral infection protect these animals from progressing to AIDS.

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