Mechanisms by which HIV affects the thymus are multiple and only partially known, and the role of thymic dysfunction in HIV/AIDS immunopathogenesis remains poorly understood. To evaluate the effects of HIV infection on intra-thymic precursors of T cells in HIV-infected adults, we conducted a detailed immunophenotypic study of thymic tissue isolated from 7 HIV-infected and 10 HIV-negative adults who were to undergo heart surgery. We found that thymuses of HIVinfected individuals were characterized by a relative depletion of CD4+ single positive T cells and a corresponding enrichment of CD8+ single positive T cells. In addition, thymocytes derived from HIV-infected subjects showed increased levels of activated and proliferating cells. Our analysis also revealed a decreased expression of interleukin-7 receptor in early thymocytes from HIV-infected individuals, along with an increase in this same expression in mature double- and singlepositive cells. Frequency of regulatory T cells (CD25+FoxP3+) was significantly increased in HIV infected thymuses, particularly in priorly-committed CD4 single positive cells. Our data suggest that HIV infection is associated with a complex set of changes in the immunophenotype of thymocytes, including a reduction of intrathymic CD4+ T cell precursors, increased expression of activation markers, changes in the expression pattern of IL-7R and enrichment of T regulatory cells generation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)