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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Aug 1;92(16):7312-6.

CD4+ blood lymphocytes are rapidly killed in vitro by contact with autologous human immunodeficiency virus-infected cells.

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Department of Medicine, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016, USA.


We have investigated the ability of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected cells to kill uninfected CD4+ lymphocytes. Infected peripheral blood mononuclear cells were cocultured with autologous 51Cr-labeled uninfected cells. Rapid death of the normal CD4-expressing target population was observed following a brief incubation. Death of blood CD4+ lymphocytes occurred before syncytium formation could be detected or productive viral infection established in the normal target cells. Cytolysis could not be induced by free virus, was dependent on gp120-CD4 binding, and occurred in resting, as well as activated, lymphocytes. CD8+ cells were not involved in this phenomenon, since HIV-infected CEMT4 cells (CD4+, CD8- cells) mediated the cytolysis of uninfected targets. Reciprocal isotope-labeling experiments demonstrated that infected CEMT4 cells did not die in parallel with their targets. The uninfected target cells manifested DNA fragmentation, followed by the release of the 51Cr label. Thus, in HIV patients, infected lymphocytes may cause the depletion of the much larger population of uninfected CD4+ cells without actually infecting them, by triggering an apoptotic death.

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