Recent insights into the pharmacological control of HIV replication and the molecular mechanisms of peripheral T cells homeostasis allowed us to investigate in vivo the mechanisms mediating T cell depletion in HIV-infected patients. Before the initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a high degree of lymphoid tissue apoptosis is present, which is reduced upon HAART initiation (P < 0.001) and directly correlates with reduction of viral load and increases of peripheral T lymphocytes (P < 0.01). Because Fas/FasL interactions play a key role in peripheral T lymphocyte homeostasis, we investigated the susceptibility to Fas-mediated apoptosis in peripheral T lymphocytes and of FasL expression in lymphoid tissue before and during HAART. High levels of Fas-susceptibility found in peripheral CD4 T lymphocytes before HAART were significantly reduced after HAART, coinciding with decreases in viral load (P = 0.018) and increases in peripheral CD4 T lymphocyte counts (P < 0.01). However, the increased FasL expression in the lymphoid tissue of HIV-infected individuals was not reduced after HAART. These results demonstrate that lymphoid tissue apoptosis directly correlates with viral load and peripheral T lymphocyte numbers, and suggest that HIV-induced susceptibility to Fas-dependent apoptosis may play a key role in the regulation of T cell homeostasis in HIV-infected individuals.
A D Badley, D H Dockrell, A Algeciras, S Ziesmer, A Landay, M M Lederman, E Connick, H Kessler, D Kuritzkes, D H Lynch, P Roche, H Yagita, C V Paya