Persistent activation of the immune system is one of the hallmarks of HIV-1 infection. In this study we analysed the induction of factors involved in cytokine signal transduction, such as STAT 1 proteins and IRF-1 mRNA, in normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) exposed to HIV-infected cells, and the induction of apoptosis. Western blot analyses and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction results indicate that both cells infected with a X4 strain and cells infected with a R5 strain are able to increase intracellular levels of STAT 1α and β proteins as well as IRF-1 mRNA. This effect was prevented by neutralizing antibodies against interferon-alpha (IFN-α). HIV-1-infected cells dose-dependently induced apoptotic commitment in normal PBMC, as revealed by DNA fragmentation analysis, but this was not accompanied by an increase of caspase-3 activity, even if a slight up-regulation of IL-1β-converting enzyme mRNA was detected. Apoptosis induction could be abrogated mainly by antibodies against tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and, to a lesser extent, by antibodies against IFN-γ. All these findings suggest that uninfected PBMC can undergo activation of signal transduction and apoptosis after exposure to bystander HIV-infected cells, subsequent to the induction of cytokines such as IFNs and TNF-α.
- Signal transduction
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