Immune activation in Africa is environmentally-driven and is associated with upregulation of CCR5

Mario Clerici, Stefano Butto, Matthew Lukwiya, Marina Saresella, Silvia Declich, Daria Trabattoni, Claudia Pastori, Stefania Piconi, Claudio Fracasso, Massimo Fabiani, Pasquale Ferrante, Giuliano Rizzardini, Lucia Lopalco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: HIV infection in Africa is associated with immune activation and a cytokine profile that stimulates CCR5 expression. We investigated whether this immune activation is environmentally driven; if a dominant expression of CCR5 could indeed be detected in African individuals; and if R5 HIV strains would be prevalent in this population. Methods: Freshly drawn peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HIV-uninfected African and Italian individuals living in rural Africa, from HIV-uninfected Africans and Italians living in Italy, and from HIV-infected African and Italian patients were analysed. Determinations of HIV coreceptor-specific mRNAs and immunophenotype analyses were performed in all samples. Virological analyses included virus isolation and characterization of plasma neutralizing activity. Findings: Results showed that: immune activation is detected both in Italian and African HIV-uninfected individuals living in Africa but not in African subjects living in Italy; CCR5-specific mRNA is augmented and the surface expression of CCR5 is increased in African compared with Italian residents (CXCR4-specific mRNA is comparable); R5-HIV strains are isolated prevalently from lymphocytes of African HIV-infected patients; and plasma neutralizing activity in HIV-infected African patients is mostly specific for R5 strains. Conclusions: Immune activation in African residents is environmentally driven and not genetically predetermined. This immune activation results in a skewing of the CCR5 : CXCR4 ratio which is associated with a prevalent isolation of R5 viruses. These data suggest that the selection of the predominant virus strain within the population could be influenced by an immunologically driven pattern of HIV co receptor expression. (C) 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2083-2092
Number of pages10
JournalAIDS (London, England)
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Africa
  • Chemokine receptors
  • HIV
  • Immune activation
  • Immunology
  • Viral quasispecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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