Immune activation and chronic inflammation are hallmark features of HIV infection causing T-cell depletion and cellular immune dysfunction in AIDS. Here, we addressed the issue whether HIV-1 Tat could affect T cell development and acute inflammatory response by generating a transgenic mouse expressing Tat in lymphoid tissue. Tat-Tg mice showed thymus atrophy and the maturation block from DN4 to DP thymic subpopulations, resulting in CD4 + and CD8 + T cells depletion in peripheral blood. In Tat-positive thymus, we observed the increased p65/NF-κB activity and deregulated expression of cytokines/chemokines and microRNA-181a-1, which are involved in T-lymphopoiesis. Upon LPS intraperitoneal injection, Tat-Tg mice developed an abnormal acute inflammatory response, which was characterized by enhanced lethality and production of inflammatory cytokines. Based on these findings, Tat-Tg mouse could represent an animal model for testing adjunctive therapies of HIV-1-associated inflammation and immune deregulation.
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