Antigen-stimulated apoptotic T-cell death in HIV infection is selective for CD4+ T cells, modulated by cytokines and effected by lymphotoxin

Mario Clerici, Apurva Sarin, Jay A. Berzofsky, Alan L. Landay, Harold A. Kessler, Farah Hashemi, Craig W. Hendrix, Stephen P. Blatt, Janice Rusnak, Matthew J. Dolan, Robert L. Coffman, Pierre A. Henkart, Gene M. Shearer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To characterize the mechanism of in vitro antigen-induced apoptotic T-cell death in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of HIV-1-infected individuals. Design and methods: PBMC from HIV-1-infected and uninfected individuals were unstimulated or stimulated with HIV-1 envelope synthetic peptides (Env) or influenza A virus to determine the extent of antigen-stimulated apoptotic T-cell death, whether this death was limited to the CD4+ subset, and the effects of cytokines on T-cell death. Death was assessed by apoptotic nuclear morphology after 7 days of culture by fluorescence microscopy using a DNA-specific dye. Transwell cultures and supernatant transfers were utilized to test whether a soluble factor produced by HIV-positive PBMC induced death of HIV-negative T cells. Exogenous cytokines [interleukin (IL)-12, interferon (IFN)-γ, IL-4 and IL-10], as well as antibodies against endogenously produced cytokines (IL-4, IL-10, IL-12, and lymphotoxin) were tested for their ability to modulate death. Results: Antigenic stimulation induced death in PBMC from HIV-positive donors, but not in PBMC from HIV-negative donors. Antigen-stimulated death was seen in CD4+ but not CD8+ T-cell subset from the HIV-positive patients. Apoptotic death was blocked by IL-12, IFN-γ, anti-IL-4, anti-IL-10, and anti-lymphotoxin, but not by anti-IL-12. Transwell and supernatant transfer experiments indicated that antigen stimulated HIV-positive PBMC produced a factor that killed T-cell blasts. The factor was inhibited by anti-lymphotoxin, but not by anti-IL-10. Conclusions: Stimulation of HIV-positive PBMC with CD4-dependent antigens results in selective death of CD4+ T cells that is modulated by cytokines. Our results suggest that apoptotic death is not limited to HIV-infected or HIV-specific T cells, but occurs in bystander cells. Lymphotoxin is a mediator of antigen-stimulated T-cell death in this in vitro model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-611
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • CD4+ T cells
  • Cytokines
  • HIV infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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