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Immunol Lett. 1997 Jun 1;57(1-3):125-30.

Kinetics of immune functions and virus replication during HIV-1 infection.

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Department Clinical Viro-Immunology, Central Laboratory of The Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Kinetics of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses and viral load were evaluated in HIV-1 infected homosexual men who progressed to AIDS within 3-6 years after seroconversion and in long-term survivors who remained AIDS-free for > 9 years with normal CD4+ T cell counts.


CTL against four major HIV-1 gene products (i.e. Gag, reverse transcriptase (RT), Nef and Env) were expanded in vitro under limiting dilution conditions using antigen specific stimulation. CTL activity was measured in standard split-well 51Cr-release assay. Viral load was measured both as serum HIV-1 RNA levels and frequency of circulating CD4+ T cells productively infected with HIV-1. Polyclonal T cell function in vitro was determined in whole blood lymphocyte cultures, measuring lymphoproliferative responses to CD3 monoclonal antibody.


Long-term survival was associated with either persistently high or stable low HIV-1 specific CTL responses, accompanied by preserved in vitro polyclonal T cell reactivity and low viral load. In progressors, HIV-1 specific CTL responses were initially generated with similar kinetics as compared to long-term survivors. However, with progression to AIDS antiviral CTL activity and T cell function deteriorated simultaneously, while viral load increased.


Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that HIV-1 specific CTL are beneficial through control of viremia to the virologic set-point and contribute to maintenance of the asymptomatic phase. However, loss of HIV-1 specific immune control as part of a more general loss of T cell function is the precipitating event in AIDS pathogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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