Role of intestinal myofibroblasts in HIV-Associated intestinal collagen deposition and immune reconstitution following combination antiretroviral therapy

David M. Asmuth, Irina V. Pinchuk, Jian Wu, Gracie Vargas, Xiaoli Chen, Surinder Mann, Anthony Albanese, Zhong Min Ma, Ramez Saroufeem, Gregory P. Melcher, Paolo Troia Cancio, Natalie J. Torok, Christopher J. Miller, Don W. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the potential role of mucosal intestinal myofibroblasts (IMFs) in HIV and associated fibrosis in gut-Associated lymphoid tissue. Design: Profibrotic changes within the secondary lymphoid organs and mucosa have been implicated in failed immune reconstitution following effective combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). Microbial translocation is believed to be sustaining these systemic inflammatory pathways. IMFs are nonprofessional antigen-presenting cells with both immunoregulatory and mesenchymal functions that are ideally positioned to respond to translocating microbial antigen. Methods: Duodenal biopsies, obtained from patients naive to cART, underwent trichrome staining and were examined for tissue growth factor-beta (TGF-b) expression. Combined immunostaining and second harmonic generation analysis were used to determine IMF activation and collagen deposition. Confocal microscopy was performed to examine IMF activation and Toll-like receptor (TLR)4 expression. Finally, primary IMF cultures were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide to demonstrate the expression of the inflammatory biomarkers. Results: The expression of the fibrosis-promoting molecule, TGF-b1, is significantly increased in duodenal biopsies from HIV patients naive to cART, and negatively correlated with subsequent peripheral CD4 recovery. The increase in TGF-b1 coincided with an increase in collagen deposition in the duodenal mucosa in the tissue area adjacent to the IMFs. We also observed that IMFs expressed TLR4 and had an activated phenotype since they were positive for fibroblast activation protein. Finally, stimulation of IMFs from HIV patients with TLR4 resulted in significantly increased expression of profibrotic molecules, TGF-b1, and interleukin-6. Conclusion: Our data support the hypothesis that activated IMFs may be among the major cells contributing to the profibrotic changes, and thus, the establishment and maintenance of systemic inflammation interfering with immune reconstitution in HIV patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-888
Number of pages12
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015


  • collagen A, gut-Associated lymphoid tissue, HIV, immune reconstitution, intestinal fibrosis, intestinal myofibroblasts, lipopolysaccharide, tissue growth factor-beta, Toll-like receptor 4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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