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PLoS One. 2008 Aug 13;3(8):e2961. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002961.

HIV-induced type I interferon and tryptophan catabolism drive T cell dysfunction despite phenotypic activation.

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Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.


Infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is characterized by functional impairment and chronic activation of T lymphocytes, the causes of which are largely unexplained. We cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from HIV-uninfected donors in the presence or absence of HIV. HIV exposure increased expression of the activation markers CD69 and CD38 on CD4 and CD8 T cells. IFN-alpha/beta, produced by HIV-activated plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC), was necessary and sufficient for CD69 and CD38 upregulation, as the HIV-induced effect was inhibited by blockade of IFN-alpha/beta receptor and mimicked by recombinant IFN-alpha/beta. T cells from HIV-exposed PBMC showed reduced proliferation after T cell receptor stimulation, partially prevented by 1-methyl tryptophan, a competitive inhibitor of the immunesuppressive enzyme indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase (IDO), expressed by HIV-activated pDC. HIV-induced IDO inhibited CD4 T cell proliferation by cell cycle arrest in G1/S, and prevented CD8 T cell from entering the cell cycle by downmodulating the costimulatory receptor CD28. Finally, the expression of CHOP, a marker of the stress response activated by IDO, was upregulated by HIV in T cells in vitro and is increased in T cells from HIV-infected patients. Our data provide an in vitro model for HIV-induced T cell dysregulation and support the hypothesis that activation of pDC concomitantly contribute to phenotypic T cell activation and inhibition of T cell proliferative capacity during HIV infection.

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