CD4+ T cell depletion, immune activation and increased production of regulatory T cells in the thymus of HIVInfected Individuals

Alessandra Bandera, Giulio Ferrario, Marina Saresella, Ivana Marventano, Alessandro Soria, Fabio Zanini, Francesca Sabbatini, Monica Airoldi, Giulia Marchetti, Fabio Franzetti, Daria Trabattoni, Mario Clerici, Andrea Gori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10788
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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