Indexed on: 15 Oct '93Published on: 15 Oct '93Published in: Cellular Immunology
The mechanism by which CD4+ T cells are depleted during HIV infection remains a matter of controversy. Recent reports have suggested that activation-induced apoptosis of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells may lead ultimately to depletion of this T cell subset during HIV infection. The murine retroviral model of AIDS (MAIDS) also displays progressive immunodeficiency, but depletion of the CD4+ T cell subset is not characteristic of the disease. We report that a fraction of splenic CD4+ T cells from 8- to 14-week MAIDS-infected C57B1/6 mice, but not normal mice, was undergoing apoptosis at the time of cell isolation. Typical apoptotic morphology and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation was seen in CD4+ T cells only from infected mice. Moreover, injection of anti-CD3 mAb enhanced DNA fragmentation in CD4+ T cells from infected but not normal mice, suggesting that the apoptosis in vivo in CD4+ T cells during MAIDS may be dependent on cell activation. Induction of apoptosis was associated with defective signaling through the TcR complex, since anti-CD3 stimulation in vitro of CD4+ T cells from infected mice caused a diminished calcium response, yet no cellular proliferation. Despite the occurrence of apoptosis in vivo in CD4+ T cells from MAIDS-infected mice, CD4+ T cells were not depleted during the course of disease. Thus, while apoptosis in CD4+ T cells is a characteristic of MAIDS immunodeficiency disease as well as HIV infections in humans, CD4+ T cell depletion is only observed in HIV infections. In view of the extensive lymphocyte expansion which occurs in vivo in MAIDS, the balance between activation-induced apoptosis and chronic cell proliferation may determine whether cell depletion is a characteristic feature of retrovirus-induced immunodeficiencies.