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Virology. 1997 Nov 24;238(2):180-8.

Apoptosis of CD4+ and CD19+ cells during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection--correlation with clinical progression, viral load, and loss of humoral immunity.

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Microbiology and Tumorbiology Center, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Enhanced rates of programmed cell death (apoptosis) have been detected in T cells and B cells from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals. To evaluate the possible relevance of this event to HIV pathogenesis and disease progression, apoptosis in CD4+ T lymphocytes and CD19+ B lymphocytes, viral load, and neutralizing antibody titers were assayed in HIV-1-infected slow progressors and progressors. A correlation was found between progressive disease and apoptosis of CD4+ T cells. The extent of apoptosis in CD4+ cells was similar in slow progressors and seronegative control subjects. By contrast, we found elevated levels of B-cell apoptosis in all HIV-1-infected individuals compared with seronegative control subjects, with a tendency toward increased levels of apoptosis with progressive disease. Apoptosis in CD4+ T cells and CD19+ B cells correlated with viral RNA levels in plasma. Furthermore, higher rates of B-cell apoptosis were observed in individuals with poor neutralizing activity against a panel of six clinical HIV-1 isolates. From these results we conclude that the extent of apoptosis in cultured CD4+ cells and CD19+ cells appears to parallel the decline in CD4 cell counts in infected individuals. The finding of a relation between apoptosis in B cells and poor neutralizing capacity suggests that apoptosis may be related to loss of immune function. A role for apoptosis in the pathogenesis of AIDS is also supported by the strong correlation between viral load and rates of apoptosis in CD4+ T cells.

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