Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 9531275
J. Immunol. 1998 Apr;160(7):3194-206
It has been proposed that HIV infection is associated with an imbalance in Th1 and Th2 subsets. Recent reports indicate that Th1 and Th2 effectors differ in their susceptibility to activation-induced apoptosis. To determine whether increased T cell apoptosis in HIV-infected patients contributes to alterations in cytokine synthesis, we performed single-cell analysis of type 1 and type 2 cytokine production by CD4 and CD8 T cells, simultaneously with detection of apoptosis. We demonstrate that a differential alteration in representation of Th1 subsets, rather than commitment of T cells to secrete Th2 cytokines, occurs throughout HIV infection. A significant decrease in the number of IL-2- or TNF-alpha-producing T cells was observed, whereas those producing IFN-gamma remained preserved. Furthermore, there is a gradient of susceptibility to activation-induced apoptosis (IL-2 < IFN-gamma < TNF-alpha) among the different Th1 subsets. This gradient was detected in both CD4 and CD8 subsets, as well as in control donors and HIV-infected patients, in whom the susceptibility to apoptosis of IL-2 and IFN-gamma producers was increased compared with controls. This differential intrinsic apoptosis susceptibility of Th1 effectors was found to be tightly regulated by Bcl-2 expression. In HIV-infected persons, disappearance of IL-2-producing T cells was a good indicator of disease progression and was correlated with the progressive shrinkage of the CD4+ CD45RA+ T cell compartment and a gradual increased susceptibility to activation-induced apoptosis of the IL-2-producing subset. This close relationship between the CD45RA/CD45R0 ratio, the level of type 1 cytokine production, and susceptibility to apoptosis should be considered in HIV-infected patients under antiviral or immune-based therapies.