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J Immunol. 1993 Nov 1;151(9):5031-40.

Elevated IFN-gamma and decreased IL-2 gene expression are associated with HIV infection.

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Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Immunology and Diseases, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine 90024-1747.


Because cytokines have a central role in the regulation and function of the human immune system, expression of several key cytokine genes in HIV infection was compared by quantitative polymerase chain reaction studies in lymphocytes from HIV-seronegative and -seropositive subjects. Elevated levels of IFN-gamma mRNA and lowered IL-2 mRNA were found in the PBMC of eight seropositive men with CD4 T cells over 500/mm3 (mean, 647/mm3), whereas IL-4 and IL-10 mRNA were not changed significantly. PBMC obtained 2 yr later from four of these patients with stable disease status (unchanged CD4 T cell number) showed median mRNA levels that were nearer normal for IFN-gamma and for IL-2. Four other men whose CD4 levels fell more than 200/mm3 in the following 2 yr, however, showed increased IFN-gamma and lowered IL-2. Purified CD4 and CD8 T cells from 10 HIV-seropositive and 10 -seronegative homosexual men were compared. Cytokine gene expression was found to be markedly different in CD4 and CD8 T cells from HIV-seropositive men. In CD8 T cells on a per-cell basis, the levels of cytokine mRNA were substantially lower than in CD4 T cells and were not markedly changed in HIV infection. In the CD4 T cells, on a per-cell basis, the mean mRNA levels of IFN-gamma, IL-10, and TNF-alpha were increased substantially (p < 0.001) in HIV infection. IL-2 gene expression was not increased significantly. Thus, the low IL-2 mRNA expression seen in PBMC is primarily due to the reduced CD4 T cell numbers. Increased expression of IFN-gamma genes in CD4 T cells, however, indicates that these cells may be responsible for substantial amounts of circulating IFN-gamma that occur in HIV infection. The striking difference in the effect of HIV infection on the expression of IFN-gamma and IL-2 genes indicates that these cytokines are under separate control. IL-4 mRNA levels were not changed. IL-10 gene expression, however, was increased more in early HIV infection, with less of an increase later. Expression of all cytokines in CD4 T cells appeared to subside late in HIV infection. However, the balance of cytokine expression was altered in all stages of HIV infection.

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