Author(s): Meissner EG, Zhang L, Jiang S, Su L
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Abstract The mechanisms of CD4(+) T-cell depletion during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection remain incompletely characterized. Of particular importance is how CD4(+) T cells are depleted within the lymphoid organs, including the lymph nodes and thymus. Herein we characterize the pathogenic mechanisms of an envelope from a rapid progressor (R3A Env) in the NL4-3 backbone (NL4-R3A) which is able to efficiently replicate and deplete CD4(+) thymocytes in the human fetal-thymus organ culture (HF-TOC). We demonstrate that uninterrupted replication is required for continual thymocyte depletion. During depletion, NL4-R3A induces an increase in thymocytes which uptake 7AAD, a marker of cell death, and which express active caspase-3, a marker of apoptosis. While 7AAD uptake is observed predominantly in uninfected thymocytes (p24(-)), active caspase-3 is expressed in both infected (p24(+)) and uninfected thymocytes (p24(-)). When added to HF-TOC with ongoing infection, the protease inhibitor saquinavir efficiently suppresses NL4-R3A replication. In contrast, the fusion inhibitors T20 and C34 allow for sustained HIV-1 production. Interestingly, T20 and C34 effectively prevent thymocyte depletion in spite of this sustained replication. Apoptosis of both p24(-) and p24(+) thymocytes appears to be envelope fusion dependent, as T20, but not saquinavir, is capable of reducing thymocyte apoptosis. Together, our data support a model whereby pathogenic envelope-dependent fusion contributes to thymocyte depletion in HIV-1-infected thymus, correlated with induction of apoptosis in both p24(+) and p24(-) thymocytes.
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology