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J Virol. 2008 Feb;82(3):1175-84. Epub 2007 Nov 21.

Early divergence in lymphoid tissue apoptosis between pathogenic and nonpathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus infections of nonhuman primates.

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Unité INSERM U841, Créteil Henri Mondor, Créteil, France.


The events that contribute to the progression to AIDS during the acute phase of a primate lentiviral infection are still poorly understood. In this study, we used pathogenic and nonpathogenic simian models of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus macaques (RMs) and African green monkeys (AGMs), respectively, to investigate the relationship between apoptosis in lymph nodes and the extent of viral replication, immune activation, and disease outcome. Here, we show that, in SIVmac251-infected RMs, a marked increased in lymphocyte apoptosis is evident during primary infection at the level of lymph nodes. Interestingly, the levels of apoptosis correlated with the extent of viral replication and the rate of disease progression to AIDS, with higher apoptosis in RMs of Indian genetic background than in those of Chinese origin. In stark contrast, no changes in the levels of lymphocyte apoptosis were observed during primary infection in the nonpathogenic model of SIVagm-sab infection of AGMs, despite similarly high rates of viral replication. A further and early divergence between SIV-infected RMs and AGMs was observed in terms of the dynamics of T- and B-cell proliferation in lymph nodes, with RMs showing significantly higher levels of cycling cells (Ki67(+)) in the T-cell zones in association with relatively low levels of Ki67(+) in the B-cell zones, whereas AGMs displayed a low frequency of Ki67(+) in the T-cell area but a high proportion of Ki67(+) cells in the B-cell area. As such, this study suggests that species-specific host factors determine an early immune response to SIV that predominantly involves either cellular or humoral immunity in RMs and AGMs, respectively. Taken together, these data are consistent with the hypotheses that (i) high levels of T-cell activation and lymphocyte apoptosis are key pathogenic factors during pathogenic SIV infection of RMs and (ii) low T-cell activation and apoptosis are determinants of the AIDS resistance of SIVagm-infected AGMs, despite high levels of SIVagm replication.

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