Immune activation, apoptosis, and treg activity are associated with persistently reduced CD4+ T-cell counts during antiretroviral therapy

Stefania Piconi, Daria Trabattoni, Andrea Gori, Serena Parisotto, Carlo Magni, Paola Meraviglia, Alessandra Bandera, Amedeo Capetti, Giuliano Rizzardini, Mario Clerici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Persistently reduced CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts in the face of undetectable HIV viremia are seen in a sizable percentage of HIV-infected patients undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). We analyzed the immune correlates of this phenomenon. MATERIALS AND Methods: Sixty-seven HIV-infected patients with undetectable viremia (500 cells/μl or 16 years) was comparable. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell were stimulated with gag+env or with cytomegalovirus peptides. Activated T cells (Ki67), Treg lymphocytes (CD4/CD25high/Foxp3+), divided into naive and activated cells based on PD1 expression, interleukin (IL)-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β production, annexin V, activation of caspases 8 and 9, Toll-like receptor (TLR)2 and TLR4 expression on immune cells, and plasma lipopolysaccharide (LPS) concentration were analyzed. Results: CD4/Ki67 T cells; plasma LPS; total, naive, and activated Treg; TLR2-expressing and TLR4-expressing Treg; IL-10 production; and early and late apoptotic CD4 T cells, were significantly increased in patients with undetectable viremia and CD4 cell counts less than 500 cells/μl after more than 7 years of ART. As previously shown, CD4 nadir were also lower in these individuals. Immune activation, LPS concentration, Treg, and degree of apoptosis were negatively correlated with CD4 cell counts. Conclusion: Lack of CD4 recovery in individuals in whom ART suppresses HIV replication is associated with complex immune alterations. Immune activation, likely driven by altered gut permeability and resulting in augmented Treg activity could play a pivotal role in this process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1991-2000
Number of pages10
JournalAIDS (London, England)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Aug 24 2010


  • antiretroviral therapy
  • CD4\+ T lymphocytes
  • cytokines
  • HIV
  • immune activation
  • immunological nonresponders
  • lipopolysaccharide
  • PD-L1
  • PD1
  • toll-like receptor
  • Treg cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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