Apoptotic features of peripheral blood granulocytes and monocytes during primary, acute HIV infection

Andrea Cossarizza, Cristina Mussini, Vanni Borghi, Nicola Mongiardo, Cira Nuzzo, Jessica Pedrazzi, Francesca Benatti, Laura Moretti, Marcello Pinti, Roberto Paganelli, Claudio Franceschi, Bruno De Rienzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Apoptosis plays a major role during HIV infection, including the primary, acute HIV syndrome (AHS), during which such phenomenon is massive. We asked whether apoptosis involved not only peripheral blood lymphocytes, but also monocytes (PBM) and granulocytes (PBG). Thus, we studied cells from different patients during the acute phase of the vital syndrome. The CD95 molecule was expressed at high density on the PBM and PBG surface during AHS. Culturing PBG for a few hours resulted in a significant membrane expression of phosphatidylserine, consistent with apoptosis. However, cells maintained for hours plasma membrane integrity and showed no relevant changes in mitochondrial membrane potential. The overexpression of CD95 was not associated with high plasmatic levels of sCD95 and, together with apoptosis and its related markers decreased after a few weeks of highly active antiretroviral therapy. During AHS, a deregulation of the CD95 system occurs in monocytes and granulocytes, is related to a high propensity of PBG to undergo apoptosis, and may contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. Antiretroviral treatment resulted not only in a decrease of virus production, but also in a reduced PBG tendency to undergo spontaneous apoptosis. Even if the mechanism(s) responsible for this phenomenon remains to be elucidated, our data suggest a possible (indirect?) action of antiretroviral therapies on PBG and PBM which could explain, at least partially, the rescue of natural immunity and the reduced use of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor during such treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 25 1999


  • Acute infection
  • AIDS
  • Apoptosis
  • CD95
  • Granulocyte
  • HIV
  • Mitochondria
  • Monocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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